A new daily observational record from Grytviken, South Georgia: Exploring twentieth-century extremes in the South Atlantic

Zoë Thomas*, Chris Turney, Rob Allan, Steve Colwell, Gail Kelly, David Lister, Philip Jones, Mark Beswick, Lisa Alexander, Tanya Lippmann, Nicholas Herold, Richard Jones

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The sparse nature of observational records across the mid- to high latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere limits the ability to place late-twentieth-century environmental changes in the context of long-term (multidecadal and centennial) variability. Historical records from subantarctic islands offer considerable potential for developing highly resolved records of change. In 1905, a whaling and meteorological station was established at Grytviken on subantarctic South Georgia in the South Atlantic (54°S, 36°W), providing near-continuous daily observations through to present day. This paper reports a new, daily observational record of temperature and precipitation from Grytviken, which is compared to regional datasets and historical reanalysis. The authors find a shift toward increasingly warmer daytime extremes commencing from the mid-twentieth century and accompanied by warmer nighttime temperatures, with an average rate of temperature rise of 0.13°C decade-1 over the period 1907-2016 (p < 0.0001). Analysis of these data and reanalysis products suggest a change of pervasive synoptic conditions across the mid- to high latitudes since the mid-twentieth century, characterized by stronger westerly airflow and associated warm föhn winds across South Georgia. This rapid rate of warming and associated declining habitat suitability has important negative implications for biodiversity, including the survival of key marine biota in the region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1743-1755
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number5
Early online date7 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018


  • Climate change
  • Climate records
  • Surface temperature


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