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The effects of February's record heat wave on Eagle Island in Antarctica. Photo: NASA

Antarctica's Eagle Island now has a side that's almost ice-free following this month's searing heat wave in the region, images released by NASA show.

Why it matters: "The warm spell caused widespread melting on nearby glaciers," NASA said in its report. It's the third major melt event of the 2019–2020 Southern Hemisphere summer, following warm spells in January and last November, according to the United Nation's World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Such persistent warmth was not typical in Antarctica until the 21st century, but it has become more common in recent years."
— NASA statement

Driving the news: The Argentine Antarctic research base Esperanza reported a temperature of 64.9°F on Feb. 6 — indicating a "likely legitimate record," per the WMO, which is still verifying the statistics.

  • The island "experienced peak melt" — about 1 inch — on the day of the reported heat record, leading to a loss of 4 inches in total within 10 days, NASA said in a statement Friday.
  • "About 20% of seasonal snow accumulation in the region melted in this one event on Eagle Island," the statement added.

What they're saying: Mauri Pelto, a glaciologist at Nichols College, who observed the warming event as 0.9 square miles of snowpack became saturated with meltwater, said in NASA's report: "I haven’t seen melt ponds develop this quickly in Antarctica. You see these kinds of melt events in Alaska and Greenland, but not usually in Antarctica."

Of note: The event comes after scientists in January found for the first time warm water beneath Antarctica's "doomsday glacier," so-called because it's one of the region's fastest melting glaciers.

The bottom line: "If you think about this one event in February, it isn't that significant," Pelto said. "It's more significant that these events are coming more frequently."

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Capitol review panel recommends more police, mobile fencing

Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

A panel appointed by Congress to review security measures at the Capitol is recommending several changes, including mobile fencing and a bigger Capitol police force, to safeguard the area after a riotous mob breached the building on Jan 6.

Why it matters: Law enforcement officials have warned there could be new plots to attack the area and target lawmakers, including during a speech President Biden is expected to give to a joint session of Congress.

Financial fallout from the Texas deep freeze

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Texas has thawed out after an Arctic freeze last month threw the state into a power crisis. But the financial turmoil from power grid shock is just starting to take shape.

Why it matters: In total, electricity companies are billions of dollars short on the post-storm payments they now owe to the state's grid operator. There's no clear path for how they will pay — something being watched closely across the country as extreme weather events become more common.

U.S. Chamber decides against political ban for Capitol insurrection

A pedestrian passes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquarters as it undergoes renovation. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce revealed Friday it won't withhold political donations from lawmakers who simply voted against certifying the presidential election results and instead decide on a case-by-case basis.

Why it matters: The Chamber is the marquee entity representing businesses and their interests in Washington. Its memo, obtained exclusively by Axios, could set the tone for businesses debating how to handle their candidate and PAC spending following the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.