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Coldest On Earth: Antarctica’s Exceedingly Low Temperature Explained

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It was previously established that Earth’s coldest spot is located on the East Antarctic Plateau. Here's what makes it the planet's coldest and why there's a limit to how cold it can get.  ( Pixabay )

The coldest place on Earth is unsurprisingly found in Antarctica, yet it has become colder than previously suggested.

This has led researchers to probe how low surface temperature can get on this planet. Earth’s coldest spot is located on the East Antarctic Plateau, situated between Dome Argus and Dome Fuji.

According to a new analysis published in the Geophysical Research Letters, temperatures dropped to -148 degrees Fahrenheit or -100 degrees Celsius, a new mark for the coldest temperature ever recorded anywhere in the world.

The Antarctica Situation

The findings were even colder than what an analysis of satellite data revealed back in 2013, which was as low as -135 degrees F or -93 degrees C in the area.

The new study analyzed satellite data gathered during the Southern Hemisphere’s winter from 2004 to 2016, with the dataset updated to take into account updated measurements by weather stations.

 Antarctica receives very little direct sunlight and is positioned astoundingly high up, with some part about 14,000 feet above sea level. The higher one goes, the lower the atmospheric pressure and the more thermal energy becomes spread out, as explained by IFL Science.

Ice also has extremely high reflectivity and very little melting along with evaporation taking place there. All these factors assure one that parts of Antarctica will readily be Earth’s coldest spots.

Is There A Limit To How Cold It Can Get?

It’s interesting to note that although the coldest sites in the area were spread out hundreds of kilometers, the lowest temperature was practically the same. The authors wondered: does this set a certain limit to how cold it can get on the plateau?

The team found that the air temperatures at the coldest sites, which had no weather stations, were likely about -137 degrees F or -94 degrees C. The inference was made from the difference between satellite measurements of the lowest surface snow temperatures at Vostok station and three automated ones, and the air temperatures at the same time and place.

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

Dr. Scambos added that the record lows are right then about as chilly as it can possibly get at Earth’s surface. Such levels can only be reached when clear skies along with dry air persist for a few days.

While temperature could decrease a little more if such conditions continued for a couple of weeks, it’s already quite unlikely to occur.

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