Nasa satellites have found the coldest place on earth. At a desolate and remote ice plateau in East Antarctica, temperatures hit a “soul-crushing” -93.2 degrees Celsius (-135 degrees Fahrenheit). This beat the previous record of -89.2 degrees Celsius measured at the Vostok Research Station in East Antarctica on July 21, 1983.
“I’ve never been in conditions that cold and I hope I never am,” Ted Scambos, lead scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) said. “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.”
The measurements were made between 2003 and 2013 by the MODIS sensor on board Nasa’s Aqua satellite and during the 2013 Southern Hemisphere winter by Landsat 8, a new satellite launched early this year by Nasa and the US Geological Survey.
Scientists were puzzled by the fact that these very low temperature spots were found in a 1,000-kilometer long swath on the highest section of the East Antarctic ice divide.
Scambos said the record temperatures were found in several 5 by 10 kilometer (3 by 6 mile) pockets where the topography forms small hollows 2 to 4 meters (6 to 13 feet) deep, according to a statement by the NSIDC. These hollows are present just off the ice ridge that runs between Dome Argus and Dome Fuji-the ice dome summits of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. Antarctic bases sit on each of the sites and are generally not occupied during Antarctic winters.
Under clear winter skies in these areas, cold air forms near the snow surface. Because the cold air is denser than the air above it, it begins to move downhill, NSIDC said. The air collects in the nearby hollows and chills still further, if conditions are favorable.
“I’d caution Guinness not to take this result and put it in their world record book just yet, because I think the numbers will probably adjust over the coming year,” Dr Scambos told BBC News. “However, I’m now confident we know where the coldest places on Earth are, and why they are there.”
Low temperatures in more accessible areas are way below these Antarctica minimums. For example, the lowest recorded temperature in the United States is -62 degrees Celsius in Alaska, -68 degrees Celsius in Siberia and -75 degrees Celsius at the summit of the Greenland Ice Sheet.
The hottest recorded spot on Earth – again by satellite sensor – is the Dasht-e Lut salt desert in southeast Iran, where it reached 70.7 degrees Celsius in 2005. Temperatures of minus 238 degrees Celsius have been detected on the Moon.