Scientists record new lowest temperature on Earth in Antarctica

Xinhua
Temperatures at tiny valleys near the top of Antarctica's ice sheet could fall to nearly minus 100 degrees Celsius, beating all previous coldest records on Earth's surface.
Xinhua

Temperatures at tiny valleys near the top of Antarctica's ice sheet could fall to nearly minus 100 degrees Celsius, beating all previous coldest records on Earth's surface, according to a new study.

Researchers found small dips or shallow hollows on the East Antarctic Plateau could be as cold as minus 98 degrees Celsius, refreshing the previous record of minus 93 degrees Celsius measured in 2013 in the same region.

The high elevation of the East Antarctic Plateau and its proximity to the South Pole give it the coldest climate of any region on Earth, while the small dips in the Antarctic Ice Sheet is the coldest of the coldest.

The cold, dense and descending air pools above its surface can remain for several days. This allows the surface and the air above the dips to cool still further.

"In this area, we see periods of incredibly dry air, and this allows the heat from snow surface to radiate into space more easily," said Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado Bouder and the study's lead author.

The record low did not identify a particular date, but rather relied on analyzing data captured by satellites between 2004 and 2016 to show that this low temperature occurs whenever the conditions are right.

The record of minus 98 degrees Celsius is about as cold as it is possible to get at Earth's surface, according to the researchers. For the temperature to drop that low, clear skies and dry air need to persist for several days. Temperatures could drop a little lower if the conditions lasted for several weeks but that's extremely unlikely to happen, Scambos said.

The study was published on Wednesday on the US-based scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters.


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