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Photos capture grim reality of Antarctica melting in record-breaking heat

Stark images of an Antarctic island melting is a "really startling reminder" of what's happening due to climate change, a New Zealander-based researcher warns.

A satellite image of Eagle Island, off the Antarctic Peninsula, taken on February 4 (left) and February 13 (right). Source: Supplied

In just nine days, Eagle Island went from snow capped with glaciers, to barren rock and bright blue pools of meltwater.

"This melt event on Eagle Island is a really startling reminder of what is happening every day, all around the planet," Antarctic researcher Dr Christina Hulbe, from the University of Otago, told 1 NEWS.

"I don't think we should need reminders any more but apparently we do."

During that nine-day period on Eagle Island, the region lost 20 per cent of its seasonal snow accumulation, NASA says.

The Antarctic Peninsula is the northernmost point of the frozen continent and one of the fastest warming places on the planet.

In between the two NASA images, a research station on the ice recorded a record-breaking temperature of 18.3C.

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"Having such an intense warming event is unusual--and there were a series of them this summer, not just the one that is captured here with satellite images," Dr Hulbe says.

"It's part of a larger picture that we should all be concerned about. The Antarctic Peninsula is changing, in ways and at rates that are a result of human impacts on the climate system.

"Antarctica is changing, the Southern Ocean is changing, Aotearoa New Zealand is changing."

The blue pools of water seen on top of the snow may look pretty, but it's likely they're actually going to make the melting process worse.

Glaciologist Dr Pascal Sirguey, also from the University of Otago, told 1 NEWS the blue liquid absorbs more sunlight, and more heat, than the white snow.

The meltwater can also speed up glaciers' retreat.

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Scientists in NZ and abroad warn that if the trends continue, the South Pole will eventually disintegrate. Source: 1 NEWS

"[This melt] seems to be exceptional circumstances," he says.

The newly released photos were captured by the Landsat 8 satellite.