Feeds

Shivering boffins nail Earth's coldest spot

A nippy -93°C down Antarctica way

Remote control for virtualized desktops

US researchers have announced they've identified the coldest place on Earth recorded to date - a spot in Antarctica which in August 2010 hit a decidedly chilly -93.2°C

Having trawled 32 years worth of data from various satellites, a team led by Ted Scambos of the National Snow and Ice Data Center presented its findings to the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco yesterday.

NASA explains: "They found 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."

Map of satellite images of coldest spot observations. Pic: NASA

The previous record of -89.2°C was recorded at Russia's Vostok Research Station in July 1983. With the benefit of instruments aboard NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites, backed by those on several National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration flying eyes in the sky, Scambos picked out even lower temperatures along a 1,000km stretch of the ridge.

"With the higher resolution of the Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS) aboard Landsat 8, the research team pinpointed the record-setting pockets," NASA says.

By comparing the readings with topographic maps, the researchers were able to offer an explanation for the brass monkeys conditions. NASA elaborates: "Already cold temperatures fall rapidly when the sky clears. If clear skies persist for a few days, the ground chills as it radiates its remaining heat into space.

"This creates a layer of super-chilled air above the surface of the snow and ice. This layer of air is denser than the relatively warmer air above it, which causes it to slide down the shallow slope of domes on the Antarctic plateau. As it flows into the pockets, it can be trapped, and the cooling continues."

Scambos concluded: "By causing the air to be stationary for extended periods, while continuing to radiate more heat away into space, you get the absolute lowest temperatures we're able to find. We suspected that we would be looking for one magical site that got extremely cold, but what we found was a large strip of Antarctica at high altitude that regularly reached these record low temperatures."

Evidently, the Antarctic winter might prove testing even for the residents of the northeastern Siberian towns of Oimekon and Verkhoyansk, both of which have enjoyed a balmy -67.8°C in "the coldest permanently inhabited place on Earth", as NASA puts it. ®

Bootnote

By contrast, it hit a positively tropical -8°C here last night at the Special Project Bureau's mountaintop HQ. The next time my daughter moans about venturing outside to feed the mutts, I'm going to deploy the "Just get on with it and consider yourself lucky we don't live in Verkhoyansk" line.

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
MEN: For pity's sake SLEEP with LOTS of WOMEN - and avoid Prostate Cancer
And, um, don't sleep with other men. If that's what worries you
Voyager 1 now EIGHTEEN LIGHT HOURS from home
Almost 20 BEEELION kilometres from Sol
HUGE SHARK as big as a WWII SUBMARINE died out, allowing whales to exist
Who'd win a fight: Megalodon or a German battleship?
Jim Beam me up, Scotty! WHISKY from SPAAACE returns to Earth
They're insured for $1m, before you thirsty folks make plans
ROGUE SAIL BOAT blocks SPACE STATION PODULE blastoff
Er, we think our ISS launch beats your fishing expedition
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army
Railguns for 'Future fighting vehicle'
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.