Coldest temperature on Earth recorded in Antarctica

Blowing snow conditions at a camp site near Vostok Station in Antarctic summer. Credit Ted Scambos NSIDC  University of Colorado-Boulder

According to an worldwide team of researchers who used 12 years' worth of data from several Earth-observing satellites and weather stations to reassess the same region, the temperatures prevailing in tiny valleys of Antarctic ice sheets can drop close to a whopping minus 98 degrees Celsius (or minus 148 degrees Fahrenheit), which is five degrees lower than originally thought.

Researchers from the University of Boulder Colorado discovered the low temperatures after analyzing data from several Earth-observing satellites rather than relying on weather stations.

The dataset was the same one that produced the previous record-low temperatures for 2013, but has since been updated to account for more up-to-date measurements by weather stations.

With their new work, the scientists found that the coldest of the cold temperatures are actually five degrees C lower than that.

The study took another look at temperature data that was taken between 2004 and 2016 during the Southern Hemisphere winter in the East Antarctic Plateau. Scientists of the Japanese station "Dome Fuji" has fixed temperature of surface air in -91,2 degrees Celsius.

At a couple of miles above sea level (about 3,500m), on top of the ice sheet covering the East Antarctic Plateau-near the Vostok Station measurement, in fact-the temperature is routinely below -130°F (-90°C).

"It's a place where Earth is so close to its limit, it's nearly like another planet", says study leader Ted Scambos, a researcher at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

If conditions were to last for several weeks it could hypothetically cause even lower temperatures, but the researchers say this is unlikely.

Antarctica's eastern plateau has the coldest temperatures on Earth. But he recently found that temperatures could be less than previously measured. Sitting some 3,500 m (11,500 ft) above sea level, the air over the Plateau is extremely still, dry and thin, and while that makes it a flawless spot for future observatories, it also helps it rank among the chilliest places on Earth.

Temperatures of 144 degrees below zero are about as cold as it is possible to get at Earth's surface, according to the researchers.

"There's a limit to how long the conditions persist to allow it to cool to these ultra-low temperatures, and a limit to how much heat you can actually get through the atmosphere", he concluded. Scambos's team suspected that it could get even colder at the very highest parts of the ice sheet.

For now at least, this is as cold as the Earth could go.

Extremely dry, extremely cold air sinks into the ice pockets and the air gets colder still, until weather conditions change. This very low-temperature air allows the snow in these hollows to radiate even more heat, allowing for the extraordinarily low ground temperature.

This past winter, parts of the United States experienced record-breaking cold temperatures, prompting the question: how cold can it get on planet Earth?

They are planning to deploy the instruments in the next year or two, during the Antarctic summer when the temperatures are a comparatively mild minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit).

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