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Coldest Place On Earth Is Even Colder Than Previously Thought

Jun 26, 2018 10:06 PM EDT
It's long been found to be a frozen landscape, but researchers discovered that the coldest spot on Earth gets even colder in the right conditions.
(Photo : Pixabay)

It's already the coldest spot in the planet, but scientists have discovered that the temperature at the East Antarctic Plateau actually drops even lower.

Tiny valleys in central Antarctica's East Antarctic Plateau, which is an elevated snowy plateau encompassing the South Pole, have been found to feature the lowest temperatures in the entire planet.

Researchers now say that it gets even frostier in the region, which is an important discovery on how low the Earth's surface temperature could drop, the American Geophysical Union reports.

Study Revises Lowest Temperature Ever Found

The study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, revealed that temperatures could also get lower than initially believed in certain areas of the East Antarctic Plateau.

In 2013, satellite sensors caught temperatures of -135 degrees Fahrenheit (-93 degrees Celsius). Now, scientists have revised the numbers after finding temperatures could get as low as -144 degrees Fahrenheit (-98 degrees Celsius) when the southern polar night occurs in July and August.

How Freezing Cold Gets Even Colder

However, the conditions have to be ideal for the temperatures to hit that landmark low. Researchers have already established that consistent light winds and clear skies over a couple of days are important in keeping the region especially freezing, but now they are adding that the air should be very dry. After all, water vapor is known to trap heat in the air.

Small hollows around 6 to 9 feet (2 to 3 meters) deep that are found in the Antarctic Ice Sheet feature these ultra-low temperatures. The process occurs when extremely cold, dry air is denser than warmer air, so it falls and gets trapped in the little pockets of hollows. As a result, the surface and air get even colder, keeping this hollow ultra-cold until conditions change.

Will It Get Colder?

The researchers behind the study state that this new reading at -98 degrees Celsius appears to be the limit of Earth's temperature.

After all, the perfect conditions have to persist for several days before these hollows become that cold. Then, at that point, the cooling of the air is so extremely slow that it will not get colder before the weather conditions inevitably change.

"There's a limit to how long the conditions persist to allow it to cool to these ultra-low temperatures, and a limit to how much heat you can actually get through the atmosphere, because water vapor has to be almost nonexistent in order to emit heat from the surface at these temperatures," lead author Ted Scambos of the University of Colorado-Boulder explains in a statement.

For now at least, this is as cold as the Earth could go.

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