What Is The Lowest Recorded Temperature In Antarctica - How cold can it get on Earth's surface? About minus 144°F, according to the latest satellite measurements of the coldest known place on the planet.
Scientists have recorded these extreme temperatures on the ice sheet in the center of Antarctica during long, dark polar winters. As they report this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, the team hypothesizes that these temperatures are as close as possible to the coldest our corner of the Solar System can reach.
What Is The Lowest Recorded Temperature In Antarctica
"It's where Earth is so close to its boundary, it's almost like it," said study leader Ted Scambos, a researcher at the University of Colorado's National Snow and Ice Data Center, another planet.
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This measurement broke the previous record for the coldest air temperature known in the natural world. In 1983, a temperature of minus 128.6°F was experienced at Russia's Vostok Station, a few miles from the South Pole. Humans cannot inhale such cold air for more than a few breaths. it can cause our lungs to bleed. Russian scientists who went out to test the meteorological station will wear masks that heat the air before they are inhaled.
Although the surface of the East Antarctic ice sheet appears flat, it is actually slightly domed from center to edge, like the shell of a large ice turtle. Vostok is near the top of the dome, about 2.2 miles of ice, but it's not quite at the top. Scambos' team suspects that it may be even colder in the highest parts of the ice sheet.
There are no weather stations on top of the iceberg, and no one is there to check them in the dead of Antarctic winter. However, satellites can sense the temperature on the surface of the ice as they fly overhead. So Scambos and his colleagues looked at years of satellite data, mapping out when and where temperatures dropped.
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Sure enough, they found about a hundred special cold packs scattered across the highest parts of the ice sheet. The coldest spots are in shallow ice depressions, small depressions where the surface is not completely flat. British Antarctic Survey polar scientist John Turner, who was not involved in the research, said this could be because cold air sinks into these depressions, like river valleys or canyons.
The air warms several degrees above the surface, where Vostok scientists have previously recorded the coldest temperatures. By comparing satellite measurements with data from nearby weather stations, Scambos and his team found that air temperatures in the area would be slightly warmer at head height, around minus 137°F. But at the very surface where your feet touch the snow, they find the temperature to be minus 144°F.
"But you hope your feet never touch the snow," Scambos says. "That wouldn't be fun at all."
Only very special conditions lead to such extreme cold. First, it must be the dead of winter, long after midnight sunset, for the season to begin. After that, the air should remain calm for a few days and the sky should be completely clear, without a cloud above the ice or a flash of diamond dust.
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No matter how cold it is, ice gives off a very small amount of heat. Normally, most of that heat is absorbed by water vapor in the atmosphere and bounces back toward the Earth's surface, trapping the heat in the lower atmosphere.
But during dry periods in Antarctica, when most of the water vapor has been removed from the atmosphere, "it starts to open a window that wouldn't normally open anywhere else on Earth," Scambos said. The weak heat released from the ice sheet can then escape into space, making the ice surface even colder.
The extremely clear conditions that allow these cold events are also ideal for looking into space, which is why scientists have placed a telescope just a few miles from the extreme cold spots. Scambos team correctly identified.
"Vapor is our enemy," says Craig Kulesa, an astronomer at the University of Arizona who operates the Large Elevation South Pole Terahertz Telescope, ironically known as HEAT. "We put the telescope in this extremely dry place, but if we put it 10 miles away, would it be better?"
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It might be a question worth discussing because the climate is changing all over the world, even though there is nowhere else on the planet they can go for better conditions. The concentration of water vapor in the atmosphere increases, which means more of the heat the ice gives off stays near the surface, keeping it warmer. So conditions that are perfectly clear, ideal for looking into space, will become rarer, and any scientist hoping to break the record for feeling the extreme cold on Earth could be on his way.
"As we see increases in greenhouse gas and water vapor concentrations, we expect temperatures in Antarctica to rise by about 3 to 4 °C," Turner said. “Seeing any new lows would be less likely. The odds are getting smaller and smaller.
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Between April and September, a research station located on the Antarctic plateau recorded minus 78 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 61 degrees Celsius). It was the coldest temperature on record since records began in 1957, and about 4.5 F (2.5 C) below the 30-year average, according to The Washington Post.
The previous record for the coldest winter was minus 77 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 60.6 degrees Celsius) in 1976, journalist Stefano Di Battista wrote on Twitter. The Post learned about the profile through Battista, but the information was later confirmed by Richard Cullater, a research scientist in NASA's Global Modeling and Assimilation Office.
According to the Post, the cold winter is likely due to a powerful vortex in the stratosphere, the second layer of the planet's atmosphere from Earth's surface. NOAA atmospheric scientist Amy Butler told the Post. "Basically, the winds in the poleward stratosphere are stronger than normal, which is associated with the jet stream being moved poleward." "This keeps the cold air trapped over much of Antarctica."
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What's more, the intense vortex also causes more ozone depletion in the stratosphere, which further strengthens the polar vortex, the Post writes. Ozone is a gas made up of three oxygen atoms that is abundant in the atmosphere. Ozone protects Earth's surface from harmful UV rays, and its depletion could widen the ozone hole over Antarctica.
While Antarctica has recorded the coldest average winter temperature, satellites have detected much lower individual temperatures. minus 144 F (minus 98 C), according to the Post.
Thanks to the cold temperatures, sea levels around Antarctica were the fifth highest on record for August, the Post reported. But the ice melted rapidly over the next few weeks, and by the end of September sea ice had thinned to its lowest level ever seen at that time of year. Scientists told the Post that Antarctica's climate tends to change rapidly, and that cold winters are not reducing the severity of climate change.
Antarctica's cold winter temperatures bucked trends for the rest of the world, which recorded the fourth warmest summer overall. In fact, July 2021 is the hottest month on record, Live Science previously reported.
Regional Climate Variation And Weather
"The cold winter is interesting, but it doesn't change the long-term trend, which is warming," Eric Steig, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Washington, told The Post. In the long term, Antarctica, like the rest of the world, is warming and rapidly losing sea ice.
Editor's Note: This article was updated on November 24 to correct errors. Ozone is a gas made up of three oxygen atoms, not molecules.
Yasemin is a contributing editor for Live Science, writing about health, neuroscience, and biology. His work has appeared in Scientific American, Science, and the San Jose Mercury News. He holds a BS in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Connecticut and a PhD in Science Communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz. A new satellite-powered survey has found a new record low temperature for anywhere on Earth, an extremely cold -144 °F (-98 °C), easily surpassing all previous measurements.
A record low was measured on the East Antarctic Plateau, where
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