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Map of Antarctica
Photo Credit: Ted Scambos/NSIDC
This image shows the location of record low temperature measurements for Antarctica. The red dots show where the satellites measured record surface temperatures and the earlier record low air temperature occurred.

Reaching a new low

Satellites find record negative temperatures in East Antarctica

Scientists recently announced that they had found the lowest temperatures on Earth at a desolate and remote ice plateau in East Antarctica, trumping a record set in 1983.

Ted Scambos External Non-U.S. government site, lead scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) External Non-U.S. government site, and his team found temperatures from minus 92 to minus 94 degrees Celsius (minus 134 to minus 137 degrees Fahrenheit) in a 1,000-kilometer-long swath on the highest section of the East Antarctic ice divide. The National Science Foundation External U.S. government site partly funds the NSIDC.

The measurements were made between 2003 and 2013 by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) External U.S. government site  sensor on board NASA’s Aqua External U.S. government site satellite and during the 2013 Southern Hemisphere winter by Landsat 8 External U.S. government site, a new satellite launched earlier this year by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey.

“I’ve never been in conditions that cold and I hope I never am,” Scambos said when the data were released at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union External Non-U.S. government site in San Francisco this week. “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 record temperatures are several degrees colder than the previous record of minus 89.2C (minus 128.6F) measured on July 21, 1983 at the Vostok Research Station in East Antarctica. The coldest temperature recorded at the U.S. Antarctic Program’s South Pole Station External U.S. government site was minus 117F (minus 82.8C) on June 23, 1982.

For more about the record-breaking temperatures in Antarctica and related research, see the press release External Non-U.S. government site from NSIDC.

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Curator: Peter Rejcek, Antarctic Support Contract | NSF Official: Winifred Reuning, Division of Polar Programs