Coldest Temperature Ever Recorded on Earth: Minus 138.5 F in Antarctica

Wednesday, 11 Dec 2013 11:26 AM

By Ken Mandel

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Antarctica remains the coldest place in the world, to the tune of 135.8 F degrees below zero. Scientists made that bitterly cold reading in August 2010 at an ice plateau in East Antarctica and say it was the lowest temperature ever recorded on Earth.

Ice scientist Ted Scambos said the reading is 50 degrees colder than anything that has ever been recorded in Alaska or Siberia.

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"I've never been in conditions that cold, and I hope I never am," said Scambos of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo. "I am told that every breath is painful, and you have to be extremely careful not to freeze part of your throat or lungs when inhaling."

Scientists discovered the Antarctic temperatures while studying 32 years of global surface temperatures recorded by NASA satellites, researchers announced at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, according to Reuters. The previous coldest recorded temperature was -128.6 F, set in 1983 at the Russian Vostok Research Station in East Antarctica, Scambos said.

"We had a suspicion this Antarctic ridge was likely to be extremely cold, and colder than Vostok because it's higher up the hill," Scambos said.

The Vostok reading remains the official record since The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) only recognizes readings taken onsite by thermometers, rather than by satellite.

Winter in Antarctica lasts from June to August, when the continent sits in darkness. The highest temperature ever recorded at Vostok was 4 degrees one summer afternoon, according to USA Today.

The coldest temperature in the United States was -80 degrees, set in Prospect Creek, Ala., on Jan. 23, 1971, Christopher Burt, weather historian for the Weather Underground, told USA Today. The lowest mark for the continental U.S. was -70 degrees, in Rogers Pass, Mont., in January 1954.

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