East Antarctica's temperature 40C above normal levels leaves scientists baffled

The coldest place on the planet has just had a heatwave - and experts say it's a wakeup call.

For three days, temperatures in east Antarctica were 40C above normal levels.

Scientists warn that if it continues, it could lead to sea level rise.

"For this place to see this level of warming in east Antarctica, it has scientists around the world on notice," says climate scientist Tim Naish.

Normally at this time of year, the temperature gauge reads -50C. Instead, it's been close to -10C.

The huge increase is leaving scientists baffled.

"It's very surprising," Naish says.

Naish spent 16 seasons studying the climate in Antarctica.

"I mean, that's a huge warming, it's a very big increase," he says.

Seventy percent of the world's fresh water is frozen in Antarctica's ice.

"There's 60 metres worth of sea level rise locked up in that ice sheet," Naish says.

This week's records aren't enough to thaw it, but they could signal a worrying trend.

"These sorts of events are the things we're looking out for because they could be the canary in the coal mine for more sustained warming," Naish says.

Kyle Clem is an expert on Antarctica's climate.

"If you were to see these events in other parts of Antarctica, the consequences would be much greater," he says.

And he says it's clear what's to blame. It is 100 percent likely it's a result of climate change, because everything that's happening in today's world is happening in a changed climate.

With the world in the midst of an energy crisis, scientists warn that it's time to change.

"The message is we should be weaning ourselves off fossil fuels. Now there's a price incentive to do that as well," Naish says.

And the solution could start at the pump. A fifth of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions come from transport - most of it happening on our roads.

And with petrol prices close to record levels, there's never been a better time to bring fuel use down.

Pain at the pump often feels helpless.

"I'm not keen to pay that much for petrol anymore, but what can you do?" one person told Newshub.

"We're trying our best but we can't figure out what to do," another says.

So Newshub asked an expert what you can do.

"There are some hacks - small things you can do - which collectively can make quite a lot of savings," says Terry Collins from the Automobile Association (AA).

Hacks like using the right tyre pressure, setting the air conditioning to recycle, and slowing down.

"Not keeping within the speed limit and driving aggressively in a built-up environment like here can change the fuel economy anywhere from 10 percent to 40 percent," he says.

"You can really make some great savings on how you drive."

Savings at the pump that can help save the planet, as a climate and energy crisis combine.