Antarctica’s Ice Sheets Found Coldest Than Ever Thought

  • Antarctica’s Ice Sheets Found Coldest Than Ever Thought

Antarctica’s Ice Sheets Found Coldest Than Ever Thought

The study titled "Ultra‐low surface temperatures in East Antarctica from satellite thermal infrared mapping: the coldest places on Earth" was published June 25 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Such a frigid temperature reading is possible only occur under very specific weather conditions, the study found. Most frequently, these temperatures, colder than the average temperature on Mars (around minus 60 Celsius), were observed in dips and hollows near the top of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. The threshold has been discovered that tells how far temperatures can fall below degrees Celsius on the Earth.

"It's a place where Earth is so close to its limit, it's nearly like another planet", says study leader Ted Scambos, a researcher at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Meanwhile, back in Antarctica.

In 2013, satellite data recorded temperatures that dipped to as low as negative 135 degrees Fahrenheit, or negative 93 degrees Celsius, which was previously the coldest temperature ever recorded on Earth. Humans can't inhale air that cold for more than a few breaths-it would cause our lungs to hemorrhage. Therefore, scientists typically divide them.

The Eastern Antarctica Plateau.

How cold can it get?

There aren't any weather stations perched at the peak of the ice sheet, and there isn't anyone there to check on them in the dead of Antarctic winter.

Scientists explain that the temperature data obtained from surface air. Minus 98 degrees Celsius, then, appears to be the limit to how cold it can get at Earth's surface, Scambos said. The coldest spots were in shallow depressions in the ice, little hollows where the surface isn't perfectly smooth. It is likewise how the cold air flows into places of the valley at night elsewhere in the world.

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. But right at the surface, where your feet would touch the snow, they saw temperatures of minus 97°C. "This allows heat from the surface of snow is much easier to climb into the upper layers", says Scambos. First, it has to be the dead of winter, long after the midnight sun sets for the season.

This is the lowest possible temperature on Earth and to achieve this, the skies have to be clear and a slight wind needs to be present for days on end near the South Pole.

As cold as it may be, ice radiates a tiny amount of heat.

The atmosphere in this region can sometimes have less than 0.2 mm total precipitable water above the surface.

We've now got new insight into just how extreme conditions on our planet can get - at opposite ends of the thermometer. "We put our telescope at this superbly dry site, but if we put it 10 miles away, would it be any better?" However, the new results suggest that the air at the location was very dry, with water vapor trapping the heat in the air.

Will climate warming due to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from human activity gradually raise the floor for this minimum temperature?

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.