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The anomaly that stands out for me is the following: why was the Antarctic region the exception to the observed elevated temperatures in the rest of the earth’s surface? Has NOAA offered any explanation?

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I'm not sure an explanation is in order. I think of it this way. Climate change says the mean amount of heat the earth gets is going up, but how that heat is distributed around the globe will vary, at least partly due to randomness. With that said, the earth is one big system for moving heat from the equators to the polls and that can get disrupted. For now though it is fair to just assume, although there could be an explanation, that the Antarctic regions was just lucky or unlucky depending on your point of view and happened to be a cold spot.

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