New study explains Antartica’s coldest temperature

Avatar By Le Williams | 2 years ago

According to a new study published this week in the AGU journal Geophysical Research Letters, small valleys near the top of Antarctica’s ice sheet reach temperatures of nearly -148 degrees Fahrenheit (-100 degrees Celsius).

Scientists consider how the findings could change the understanding of the lowest temperatures on the Earth’s surface and the method in which temperatures plummet.

Researchers first announced the discovery of the coldest temperature on Earth in 2013, determining persistent clear skies and light winds are a prerequisite for low temperatures.

Recent studies, however, reveal the requirement of extremely dry air as a precursor for the lowest temperatures recorded, as water vapors block the loss of heat from the snow surface.

“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 Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado Boulder and the study’s lead author.

The record of -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.