The coldest place on Earth is nearing the ultimate limits of our planet

Posted: June 27, 2018 by oldbrew in research, Temperature


A spot of light reading during the current UK heatwave…how does minus 98 degrees Celsius at Earth’s surface sound? This study of Antarctic data finds that ‘the air needs to be extremely dry to get temperatures this far below zero. Any water vapour in the air tends to heat it up, albeit slightly.’

So cold it would be painful to breathe says ScienceAlert.

Just how cold can it get on Earth? Colder than we thought, apparently. A new study of satellite data reports that valleys in Antarctica’s ice sheets can reach close to minus 100 degrees Celsius (or minus 148 degrees Fahrenheit).

Very chilly then, and significantly below the previous record of minus 93 degrees Celsius (minus 135 degrees Fahrenheit) observed in the same area.

Scientists reached the new figure by looking again at remote satellite readings of temperatures on the East Antarctic Plateau, which covers the South Pole, and recalibrating these readings with updated data taken from weather stations on the ground.

The new low point is officially minus 98 degrees Celsius (minus 144 degrees Fahrenheit), a temperature that “appears to be about as low as it is possible to reach” according to the international team of researchers who worked on the new study.

“I’ve never been in conditions that cold, and I hope I never am,” one of the team, Ted Scambos from the University of Colorado-Boulder, told Doyle Rice at USA Today.

“I am told that every breath is painful, and you have to be extremely careful not to freeze part of your throat or lungs when inhaling.”

Such freezing temperatures occur in tiny pockets on the ice, the satellite readings show, up to 3 metres (or 9.8 feet) deep.

Note that this isn’t the same as the lowest temperature ever recorded using instruments at ground level. That honour goes to researchers at Russia’s Vostok Station, also on the East Antarctic Plateau, who gauged the temperature as minus 89 degrees Celsius (minus 128 degrees Fahrenheit) in July 1983.

These new temperatures are readings taken remotely from satellites in space, and scientists like to keep the two separate – here we’re talking about specifically the temperature of Earth’s surface, not the air just above ground, as a weather station would log.

Continued here.

  1. Jamie Spry says:

    Cool post. Cheers Rog.

  2. oldbrew says:

    “I am told that every breath is painful, and you have to be extremely careful not to freeze part of your throat or lungs when inhaling.”

    Better read the instructions at least twice before going there 😎

  3. Graeme No.3 says:

    No problem, just don’t inhale, I’m sure some Greenie will point that out, because theyve worked out that inhaling is linked to exhaling (which they want to ban).

  4. oldbrew says:

    Buried Volcanic Vent Heats Up Antarctica’s Fastest-Melting Glacier
    By Mindy Weisberger, Senior Writer | June 27, 2018 06:19am ET

  5. E.M.Smith says:

    CO2 has a melting point of -56.6 C and a sublimation point of -78.5 C, both below the cited -98 C temperature. That isn’t even counting that an ice / CO2 slush would form at higher temperatures.

    That ought to result in net extraction of CO2 from the air and enrichment in the ice.

    Perhaps that explains some of the stories from Antarctic posts of snow that fizzes in your mouth.

    I wonder how cold it gets during actual Ice Age Glacials…

  6. oldbrew says:

    Polar Venus is even colder, possibly related to wind strength near the poles and/or its very slow rotation rate.

    We infer an average temperature of T = 114 ± 23 K [= -159 Celsius]
    – – –
    ESA Finds a Frigid Surprise Hiding at Venus’ Poles
    Venus may be boiling hot, but its poles are very, very cold.

    By John Wenz | Published: Tuesday, April 19, 2016

  7. Richard111 says:

    Interesting. Didn’t the Romans dig holes 3 metres deep in the desert to make ice?

  8. RoswellJohn says:

    At -102 degrees Fahrenheit you can breath through your mouth, but it’s better to breath through your nose to avoid frostbite of the lungs. Makes is difficult to do much work outside! This is from personal experience at South Pole Station (90 degrees South) around August of 1962 when we were attempting to lay out a new 10,000 foot runway. Just barely enough light to see a few hundred yards so we used flashlights to see where the others were. Batteries froze after about 30 minutes so we kept replacing flashlights with spares stored next to our bodies. The whole operation was called off when the geomagnetism guy (BS Civil Eng) came walking back to the station with the theodolite over his shoulder. What’s wrong we said? He said the mercury level froze and he couldn’t do any surveying that day!

  9. nickreality65 says:

    So energy & heat would flow from the upper troposphere/lower stratosphere to the surface. Is that what drives Hadley cells?

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