Friday, 16 November, 2018

The coldest temperature on Earth has been updated - and it’s ungodly low

The high flat and cold environment of the Antarctic Plateau at Dome C. Credit Wikimedia Commons The high flat and cold environment of the Antarctic Plateau at Dome C. Credit Wikimedia Commons
Sandra Phillips | 28 June, 2018, 18:59

Using satellite data, researchers discovered that a series of valleys on an ice sheet in eastern Antarctica reached a temperature of minus 98 degrees Celsius (minus 144.4 degrees Fahrenheit).

But the researchers revised that initial study with new data and found the temperatures actually reach minus 98 degrees Celsius (minus 144 degrees Fahrenheit) during the southern polar night, mostly during July and August.

Meanwhile, meteorologist Jeff Masters at the Weather Underground Category 6 blog is reporting today that "a singularly unenviable heat mark" was set on Tuesday in Quriyat, Oman: a 24-hour low temperature of 42.6 degrees C.

Since it is impossible to install a weather station in the area, Scambos and his team looked at satellite data from 2003 to 2016 to see just how cold it got in the area.

The new low point is officially minus 98 degrees Celsius (minus 144 degrees Fahrenheit), a temperature that "appears to be about as low as it is possible to reach" according to the worldwide team of researchers who worked on the new study.

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. This temperature-a staggering minus 93 degrees Celsius (minus 135 degrees Fahrenheit)-was observed in several spots on the East Antarctic Plateau, a high snowy plain that encompasses the South Pole.

"For the temperature to drop that low, clear skies and dry air need to persist for several days".

"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", says Ted Scambos, lead author of the study.

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Pictured, blowing snow conditions at a camp site near Vostok Station in Antarctic summer. Any water vapour in the air tends to heat it up, albeit slightly. (1.8 to 2.7 m) deep within the ice. As they report this week in Geophysical Research Letters, the team thinks this is about as cold as it can possibly get in our corner of the solar system. The weather conditions on the plateau did not change, but the adjusted satellite data gave the researchers a more accurate picture of what the actual lowest temperature was. Scientists say that the temperature could in theory descend here below, however, this would require that the sky stayed clear longer, and the air was drier.

In 2013 and in the new study, researchers calibrated the same satellite measurements of surface temperatures with data collected from weather stations on Antarctica's surface.

How cold can it get?

Interestingly, even though the coldest sites were spread out over hundreds of kilometers, the lowest temperatures were all almost the same.

The study has found that dry air is also the key to ultra-cold temperatures. Minus 98 degrees Celsius, then, appears to be the limit to how cold it can get at Earth's surface, Scambos said.

Keep in mind that this isn't really the like the most affordable temperature level ever before taped utilizing tools at ground degree.

In the next year or two, the scientists hope to gather more data by deploying ground-based instruments in the coldest locations.

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