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South Pole could 'disintegrate' if Antarctica's record-breaking warmth keeps up - experts

Surface temperatures across the planet this January have set a new record and in the last few days Antarctica has registered its highest ever temperature of more than 20C. 

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

It's generating concern, with experts here and abroad now warning if trends continue, the South Pole will eventually "disintegrate".

The icy continent is warming at an alarming rate and today, there were reports of a massive iceberg, nearly twice the size of Lake Wānaka broken off a glacier. 

It comes just days after scientists registered Antarctica's hottest ever temperature, 20.75C, at Seymour Island.

One Kiwi expert who has been monitoring ice shelves for decades says it was only a matter of time.

"It's extremely high temperatures," Canterbury University glaciologist Wolfgang Rack told 1 NEWS.

"It's not completely surprising because we've observed now for several decades a very strong increase in temperatures, especially in the Antarctic Peninsula."

One Chilean base in Antarctica, normally surrounded by ice, is now surrounded by open water.

"These maximum temperatures [in Antarctica] used to occur once every 1000 years, then every hundred years, and now we're seeing them, I think, in the order of decades," scientist and glacier specialist Ricardo Jana says.

"I think that's a consequence of the global climate change."

Experts say as a result, we could see sea levels rise even quicker.

"So there two things here, melting from below because of warming water, and we're observing more and more melting from surface from rising air temperatures," Mr Rack says.

Not to mention the impact on wildlife.

In parts of Antarctica, some colonies of the chinstrap penguin have declined by more than 70 per cent.

"It's not simply that they might go extinct," conservation biologist Steve Forrest says.

"It's that wherever we end up on this downward spiral, we might be in a place that's just a lot less biodiverse, a lot less interesting, a lot less flourishing and abundant."

It's already sparked protests and renewed calls for urgent united intervention.

"There's more and more scientific evidence that tells us that we need to preserve at least 30 per cent of the world's oceans by 2030," Greenpeace's Frida Bengtsson says.

"And one might say that there is a lot to do. We have reached roughly around four per cent, which is really, really low. 

"But looking at that, if you turn it around, it still means that we can actively use 70 per cent of the world's oceans. 

"So it shouldn't be that big of a call really to protect unique places like we have here around us in Antarctica."

It's a global problem leaving its mark on one of the world's most precious places.