Ted Scambos, lead scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., said here today (Dec. 9) at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.
That temperature? A mind- — and body-numbing — minus 136 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 93.2 Celsius), measured in pockets scattered near a high ice ridge between Dome Argus and Dome Fuji, two summits on the East Antarctic Plateau.
With remote-sensing satellites, scientists have found the coldest places on Earth, just off a ridge in the East Antarctic Plateau. The coldest of the cold temperatures dropped to minus 135.8 F (minus 93.2 C) — several degrees colder than the previous record.
Credit: Ted Scambos, National Snow and Ice Data Center.
Researchers began looking at these frigid pockets after they noticed cracks in the snow between large snow dunes on the plateau and wondered if super low temperatures might be creating the cracks by causing the snow on the surface to shrink. This led them to begin the search for the coldest places on the planet.
The temperatures won’t make it into the official record books though, since the World Meteorological Organization recognizes only temperatures made a couple of meters above the surface. The long-standing record for the coldest temperature by that measure was, of course, also in Antarctica, at the Vostok Research Station, where it reached minus 128.6 F (minus 89.2 C) in July 1983.
However, Scambos is certain that if one could measure the air temperature at the proper height in these cold pockets — which would be hard because a mercury thermometer wouldn’t work in such extremes, and an alcohol thermometer would be hard pressed — that they’d have Vostok beat.