Polar-orbiting satellite locates the coldest place on Earth

It goes without saying that it's cold in Antarctica, but exactly how cold does it get? Scientists poring over more than 30 years of data from orbiting satellites have found one part of the Antarctic mountain ridge that actually got down to a record -93.2 degrees Celcius — the coldest temperature we've ever recorded anywhere on the planet.

This truly bone-chilly temperature was recorded on August 10th, 2010, along the East Antarctic Plateau, and it knocks the previous 'coldest place on Earth' — Vostok research station with its record of -89.2°C — off of its 26 year throne of ice.

Scientists from NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Centre discuss the new record in this video:

As for how temperatures can actually get down that low, rather than a very windy place, you actually need very still air that persists in one area for a long time, as this short video explains:

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There are a few particularly amazing and scary facts about this discovery.

Firstly, this temperature is so cold that it goes far beyond any discussions of extreme cold you'll likely find. Environment Canada's guide on this kind of weather stops at "-55 and below" with warnings like "Extremely High risk: exposed skin can freeze in less than 2 minutes," "DANGER! Outdoor conditions are hazardous" and the simple advice of "stay indoors." Furthermore, that "-55 and below" isn't for temperature, but wind chill. The same strong breeze that can turn -30°C into a -55 wind chill can make -93.2°C feel more like -145. Yikes!

If you ever want to visit the East Antarctic Plateau, forget about the long underwear and parkas. Break out the space suits!

(Image and videos courtesy: Ted Scambos/NSIDC, NASA/Goddard)

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