Antarctic record: NASA announces a new "coldest place on earth"

NASA Finds a New Coldest Place on Earth

NASA Finds a New Coldest Place on Earth

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Dec. 10 2013 9:53 AM

NASA Finds a New Coldest Place on Earth


Photo courtesy of NASA

A little consolation for those of us who bundled up in every coat we own this morning in a bid to stay warm: It could be worse. Much, much worse.

NASA announced this week that it has found a new coldest place on Earth (and much to my surprise it's not Iowa City). After analyzing more than three decades worth of satellite data, researchers found that temperatures plummeted to record lows dozens of times "in clusters of pockets near a high ridge between Dome Argus and Dome Fuji, two summits on the ice sheet known as the East Antarctic Plateau." The new all-time record low recorded was an almost unimaginable minus-135.8 degrees Fahrenheit—for the metric lovers among us, that's minus-93.2 degrees Celsius—set on Aug. 10, 2010. (The same area came close to breaking that record again on July 31 of this year, when the temperature dropped to minus-135.3 degrees.)

As Ted Scambos, a scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, explained yesterday, those temperatures are about 50 degrees below anything you'd see in Alaska or Siberia, and closer to what "you'd see on Mars on a nice summer day in the poles."

The previous frosty record-holder on the books was the minus-128.6 degrees Fahrenheit set in 1983 at the Russian Vostok Research Station in East Antarctica. For comparison, the coldest permanently inhabited place on Earth is in northeastern Siberia, where two towns, Verkhoyansk and Oimekon, dropped to minus-90 in 1892 and 1933, respectively. More on today's announcement over at the NASA website.

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Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City.