Antarctica posts hottest temperature on record

The world has reached yet another unwanted first - Antarctica has posted its hottest temperature on record.

One area of the icy continent has reached 18C, warmer than most of the South Island was on Saturday.

Antarctica's pristine environment is collapsing before our eyes. And today, a grim new record was set for the Antarctica peninsula.

"[It was] 18.3C, which is not a figure you would normally associate with Antarctica even in summertime," says World Meteorological Organization spokesperson Clare Nullis.

It's taken just five years to re-write the record books at Argentina's Esperanza Base - the previous high was 17.5C. 

The research centre is at the northern tip of the Antarctic, some 5700 kilometres south of Chile.

"It's among the fastest-warming regions of the planet," Nullis says.

"We hear a lot about the Arctic, but this particular part of the Antarctic peninsula is warming."

Because Esperanza sits on the eastern side of the peninsula, the area is subject to a weather phenomenon similar to the warm Canterbury norwester.

"When the westerly blows over the Southern alps you get a really warm day in Canterbury. Same deal at this base in the Antarctic peninsula," says climate scientist Professor James Renwick.

But Prof Renwick says there is no doubt climate change is a contributing factor.

"The fires in Australia, the droughts, the floods; extreme events around the world are on the increase," he says.

"This is just another piece in the puzzle and it helps to paint the picture that the whole world is changing."

At Scott Base - 4000 kilometres away - it's -3C, but the record has piqued Kiwi scientists' interest.

"There's an element of concern, but an absolute commitment to understanding this continent better for those impacts that it has upon the world," Antarctica NZ Antarctic operations general manager Simon Trotter says.

You don't need to be a scientist to know when Antarctica was warmer than today's temperatures in Invercargill, Dunedin, Queenstown and Christchurch something is very wrong.