How cold is the coldest place on Earth?

How cold is the coldest place on Earth?
NASA image courtesy the MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Holli Riebeek.

The cold snap in the upper Midwest that's making big news comes on the heels of NOAA announcing it has discovered what it believes is the coldest temperature ever recorded on Earth.

Now, before I give the answer, I thought I'd give a quiz where you think that spot might be:

A) Martin Stadium during any WSU home Apple Cup game
B) The front observation deck on any Washington State ferry crossing Puget Sound in December
C) Upper Minnesota
D) Canada
E) Alaska
F) Siberia
G) Antarctica

OK, the answer is the obvious one: Antarctica. The new NASA Landsat Satellite 8 has determined that a high ridge on the East Antarctic Plateau has had temperatures that drop to -133.6F on clear winter nights, narrowly edging Martin Stadium (right?)

"Researchers analyzed 32 years' worth of data from several satellite instruments," NASA said. "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. The new record of minus 136 F (minus 93.2 C) was set Aug. 10, 2010."



Researchers say that observation is several degrees colder than the coldest actual recorded observation of -128.6F at a Russian research station in eastern Antarctica, and nearly 40 degrees colder than the record -90 degree temperatures recorded in permanently inhabited areas of Siberia.

Satellites have helped show scientists that the planet is both much hotter and colder in spots where we have yet to get a ground measurement. On the other side of the coin, while Death Valley, California holds the hottest recorded temperature record of 133 degrees, satellite imagery suggests the actual hottest place on Earth is the Lut Desert in Iran, where sensors indicate ground temperatures have reached around 158 degrees!

Fun with cold weather

Speaking of cold weather, while not planetary-record in Ontario this week, it was -40 -- cold enough to pull off this little trick with boiling water in a super soaker -- the water instantly turns to steam!