Antarctica hits record high temperature at balmy 17.5°C (63.5°F)

OSLO, March 1 (Reuters) - An Argentine research base near the northern tip of the Antarctic peninsula has set a heat record at a balmy 17.5 degrees Celsius (63.5° Fahrenheit), the U.N. weather agency said on Wednesday.

The Experanza base set the high on March 24, 2015, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said after reviewing data around Antarctica to set benchmarks to help track future global warming and natural variations.

"Verification of maximum and minimum temperatures help us to build up a picture of the weather and climate in one of Earth's final frontiers," said Michael Sparrow, a polar expert with the WMO co-sponsored World Climate Research Programme.

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Under the sea in Antarctica

Weddell seal and pup swimming underwater in Antarctica.

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A cable portrudes from the ice wall at Explorers Cover, New Harbor, McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. The cable is used for the Remotely Operable Micro-Environmental Observatory (ROMEO), an underwater camera. Connected to onshore equipment and linked by radio to

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The Marbled Rockcod (Notothenia rossii) copes with the icy waters of Antarctica by means of a biological antifreeze in its body fluids, Antarctica.

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Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba), key species in the Antarctic ecosystem. Grows to 6 cm and occurs in densities ranging up to 30,000 in a cubic metre. 

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Unidentified large jellyfish in brash ice, Cierva Cove, Antarctica, Southern Ocean, Polar Regions.

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Icefish in Antarctica have no scales or haemoglobin, so their blood is white.

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Antarctic Sea star (Odontaster validus) in Antarctica.

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Antarctic Sea urchin, (Sterechinus neumayeri) with camouflage attached, Antarctica.

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Antarctic Limpet (Nacella concinna) in Antarctica.

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Barbed plunder fish in Antarctic underwater.

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Antarctica, Cuverville Island, Underwater view of Comb Jellyfish swimming beneath ice along plankton-filled shallow water.

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Orange yellow anemone surrounded by brown algae, Antarctica.

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Two yellow sea stars and white worm strands, Antarctica.

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Antarctica locks up 90 percent of the world's fresh water as ice and would raise sea levels by about 60 meters (200 ft) if it were all to melt, meaning scientists are concerned to know even about extremes around the fringes.

The heat record for the broader Antarctic region, defined as anywhere south of 60 degrees latitude, was 19.8°C (67.6°F) on Jan. 30, 1982 on Signy Island in the South Atlantic, it said.

And the warmest temperature recorded on the Antarctic plateau, above 2,500 meters (8,202 feet), was -7.0°C (19.4°F) on Dec. 28, 1980, it said.

Wednesday's WMO report only examined the highs.

The lowest temperature set anywhere on the planet was a numbing -89.2°C (-128.6°F) at the Soviet Union's Vostok station in central Antarctica on July 21, 1983.

(Reporting by Alister Doyle; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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NASA launches Operation IceBridge to study Antarctica
ANTARCTICA - OCTOBER 31: A section of ice near the coast of West Antarctica is viewed from a window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane on October 31, 2016 in-flight over Antarctica. NASA's Operation IceBridge has been studying how polar ice has evolved over the past eight years and is currently flying a set of 12-hour research flights over West Antarctica at the start of the melt season. Researchers have used the IceBridge data to observe that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be in a state of irreversible decline directly contributing to rising sea levels. NASA and University of California, Irvine (UCI) researchers have recently detected the speediest ongoing Western Antarctica glacial retreat rates ever observed. The United Nations climate change talks begin November 7 in the Moroccan city of Marrakech. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
ANTARCTICA - OCTOBER 31: IceBridge Project Scientist Nathan Kurtz looks out over ice near the coast of West Antarctica from a window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane on October 31, 2016 in-flight over Antarctica. NASA's Operation IceBridge has been studying how polar ice has evolved over the past eight years and is currently flying a set of up to 12-hour research flights over West Antarctica at the start of the melt season. Researchers have used the IceBridge data to observe that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be in a state of irreversible decline directly contributing to rising sea levels. NASA and University of California, Irvine (UCI) researchers have recently detected the speediest ongoing Western Antarctica glacial retreat rates ever observed. The United Nations climate change talks begin November 7 in the Moroccan city of Marrakech. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
ANTARCTICA - OCTOBER 31: A section of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet with mountains is viewed from a window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane on October 31, 2016 in-flight over Antarctica. NASA's Operation IceBridge has been studying how polar ice has evolved over the past eight years and is currently flying a set of 12-hour research flights over West Antarctica at the start of the melt season. Researchers have used the IceBridge data to observe that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be in a state of irreversible decline directly contributing to rising sea levels. NASA and University of California, Irvine (UCI) researchers have recently detected the speediest ongoing Western Antarctica glacial retreat rates ever observed. The United Nations climate change talks begin November 7 in the Moroccan city of Marrakech. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
ANTARCTICA - OCTOBER 31: A section of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is viewed from a window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane with the airplane shadow visible on October 31, 2016 in-flight over Antarctica. NASA's Operation IceBridge has been studying how polar ice has evolved over the past eight years and is currently flying a set of 12-hour research flights over West Antarctica at the start of the melt season. Researchers have used the IceBridge data to observe that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be in a state of irreversible decline directly contributing to rising sea levels. NASA and University of California, Irvine (UCI) researchers have recently detected the speediest ongoing Western Antarctica glacial retreat rates ever observed. The United Nations climate change talks begin November 7 in the Moroccan city of Marrakech. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
ANTARCTICA - OCTOBER 28: Ice crevasses are viewed near the coast of West Antarctica from a window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane on October 28, 2016 in-flight over Antarctica. NASA's Operation IceBridge has been studying how polar ice has evolved over the past eight years and is currently flying a set of 12-hour research flights over West Antarctica at the start of the melt season. Researchers have used the IceBridge data to observe that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be in a state of irreversible decline directly contributing to rising sea levels. NASA and University of California, Irvine (UCI) researchers have recently detected the speediest ongoing Western Antarctica glacial retreat rates ever observed. The United Nations climate change talks begin November 7 in the Moroccan city of Marrakech. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
ANTARCTICA - OCTOBER 28: Ice floats near the coast of West Antarctica as viewed from a window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane on October 28, 2016 in-flight over Antarctica. NASA's Operation IceBridge has been studying how polar ice has evolved over the past eight years and is currently flying a set of 12-hour research flights over West Antarctica at the start of the melt season. Researchers have used the IceBridge data to observe that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be in a state of irreversible decline directly contributing to rising sea levels. NASA and University of California, Irvine (UCI) researchers have recently detected the speediest ongoing Western Antarctica glacial retreat rates ever observed. The United Nations climate change talks begin November 7 in the Moroccan city of Marrakech. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
ANTARCTICA - OCTOBER 28: Tabular icebergs float near the coast of West Antarctica as seen from a window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane on October 28, 2016 in-flight Antarctica. NASA's Operation IceBridge has been studying how polar ice has evolved over the past eight years and is currently flying a set of 12-hour research flights over West Antarctica at the start of the melt season. Researchers have used the IceBridge data to observe that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be in a state of irreversible decline directly contributing to rising sea levels. NASA and University of California, Irvine (UCI) researchers have recently detected the speediest ongoing Western Antarctica glacial retreat rates ever observed. The United Nations climate change talks begin November 7 in the Moroccan city of Marrakech. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
ANTARCTICA - OCTOBER 28: Sea ice streaks are viewed near the coast of West Antarctica from a window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane on October 28, 2016 in-flight over Antarctica. NASA's Operation IceBridge has been studying how polar ice has evolved over the past eight years and is currently flying a set of 12-hour research flights over West Antarctica at the start of the melt season. Researchers have used the IceBridge data to observe that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be in a state of irreversible decline directly contributing to rising sea levels. NASA and University of California, Irvine (UCI) researchers have recently detected the speediest ongoing Western Antarctica glacial retreat rates ever observed. The United Nations climate change talks begin November 7 in the Moroccan city of Marrakech. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
ANTARCTICA - OCTOBER 28: Sea ice floats near the coast of West Antarctica from a window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane on October 28, 2016 in-flight over Antarctica. NASA's Operation IceBridge has been studying how polar ice has evolved over the past eight years and is currently flying a set of 12-hour research flights over West Antarctica at the start of the melt season. Researchers have used the IceBridge data to observe that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be in a state of irreversible decline directly contributing to rising sea levels. NASA and University of California, Irvine (UCI) researchers have recently detected the speediest ongoing Western Antarctica glacial retreat rates ever observed. The United Nations climate change talks begin November 7 in the Moroccan city of Marrakech. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
ANTARCTICA - OCTOBER 28: Ice is viewed near the coast of West Antarctica from a window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane on October 28, 2016 in-flight over Antarctica. NASA's Operation IceBridge has been studying how polar ice has evolved over the past eight years and is currently flying a set of 12-hour research flights over West Antarctica at the start of the melt season. Researchers have used the IceBridge data to observe that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be in a state of irreversible decline directly contributing to rising sea levels. NASA and University of California, Irvine (UCI) researchers have recently detected the speediest ongoing Western Antarctica glacial retreat rates ever observed. The United Nations climate change talks begin November 7 in the Moroccan city of Marrakech. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
ANTARCTICA- OCTOBER 28: NASA flight suits hang inside a NASA Operation IceBridge DC-8 research airplane on October 28, 2016 flying near the coast of Antarctica. NASA's Operation IceBridge has been studying how polar ice has evolved over the past eight years and is currently flying a set of 12-hour research flights over West Antarctica at the start of the melt season. Researchers have used the IceBridge data to observe that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be in a state of irreversible decline directly contributing to rising sea levels. NASA and University of California, Irvine (UCI) researchers have recently detected the speediest ongoing Western Antarctica glacial retreat rates ever observed. The United Nations climate change talks begin November 7 in the Moroccan city of Marrakech. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
ANTARCTICA - OCTOBER 28: Mission scientist John Sonntag works inside a NASA Operation IceBridge DC-8 research airplane on October 28, 2016 in-flight over Antarctica. NASA's Operation IceBridge has been studying how polar ice has evolved over the past eight years and is currently flying a set of 12-hour research flights over West Antarctica at the start of the melt season. Researchers have used the IceBridge data to observe that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be in a state of irreversible decline directly contributing to rising sea levels. NASA and University of California, Irvine (UCI) researchers have recently detected the speediest ongoing Western Antarctica glacial retreat rates ever observed. The United Nations climate change talks begin November 7 in the Moroccan city of Marrakech. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
ANTARCTICA - OCTOBER 28: Ice is viewed near the coast of West Antarctica from a window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane on October 28, 2016 in-flight over Antarctica. NASA's Operation IceBridge has been studying how polar ice has evolved over the past eight years and is currently flying a set of 12-hour research flights over West Antarctica at the start of the melt season. Researchers have used the IceBridge data to observe that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be in a state of irreversible decline directly contributing to rising sea levels. NASA and University of California, Irvine (UCI) researchers have recently detected the speediest ongoing Western Antarctica glacial retreat rates ever observed. The United Nations climate change talks begin November 7 in the Moroccan city of Marrakech. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
ANTARCTICA - OCTOBER 27: Ice floats in West Antarctica as seen from a window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane on October 27, 2016 in-flight over Antarctica. NASA's Operation IceBridge has been studying how polar ice has evolved over the past eight years and is currently flying a set of 12-hour research flights over West Antarctica at the start of the melt season. Researchers have used the IceBridge data to observe that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be in a state of irreversible decline directly contributing to rising sea levels. NASA and University of California, Irvine (UCI) researchers have recently detected the speediest ongoing Western Antarctica glacial retreat rates ever observed. The United Nations climate change talks begin November 7 in the Moroccan city of Marrakech. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
ANTARCTICA- OCTOBER 27: Ice floats near the coast of West Antarctica as viewed from a window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane on October 27, 2016 in flight over Antarctica. NASA's Operation IceBridge has been studying how polar ice has evolved over the past eight years and is currently flying a set of 12-hour research flights over West Antarctica at the start of the melt season. Researchers have used the IceBridge data to observe that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be in a state of irreversible decline directly contributing to rising sea levels. NASA and University of California, Irvine (UCI) researchers have recently detected the speediest ongoing Western Antarctica glacial retreat rates ever observed. The United Nations climate change talks begin November 7 in the Moroccan city of Marrakech. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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