Brrr! Scientists Discover Coldest Place on Earth

Scientists have measured record low temperatures in this bone-chilling setting.

ByABC News
December 10, 2013, 2:15 PM

Dec. 10, 2013— -- Scientists have located the coldest place on Earth, and while it may not be a surprise that it's in Antarctica, the record-setting chill is enough to make the hardiest souls shudder.

The mercury dipped to minus 135.8 degrees Fahrenheit on a high ridge in the Antarctic mountains, a team of researchers announced this week.

That's cold enough to freeze carbon-dioxide gas into a solid -- dry ice -- and turn gasoline into a thick slushie. And that temperature was 40 degrees colder than the record low for a permanently inhabited place –- set in two villages in Russia's Siberia region in 1892 and 1933, according to NASA.

The record-setting measurement was achieved thanks to the most detailed temperature map ever of the Earth's surface, scientists said Monday at a conference in San Francisco.

The record is "tens of degrees colder than anything ever seen in Alaska, Siberia or Greenland," said Ted Scambos, the lead scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., who was behind the discovery.

Such extreme temperatures would be hard for humans to handle, Scambos told ABC News today. He has worked in Antarctica in minus 40 degree weather, when "moisture from your eyes freezes out on your eyelashes and makes it hard to see," he said.

"It's bitter cold, but imagine if it was up to 100 degrees colder," he said.

The scientists used new, detailed maps showing surface temperatures around the world to locate the ridge, which sits between two summits on the East Antarctic Plateau. Three decades' worth of data, including new information from an American satellite launched in February, helped them pinpoint areas where high altitudes and low latitudes create ultra-cold pockets.

The Landsat 8 satellite, a joint project of NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, has significantly better resolution than that of previous satellites, Scambos said. It provided data for the most detailed global surface temperature maps ever made, according to NASA.

With that information, scientists found the temperature on the ridge hit the all-time low of minus 135.8 degrees on Aug. 10, 2010, beating the previous record of minus 128.6 degrees, set at Russia's Vostok Research Station in East Antarctica, according to NASA. The temperature reached minus 135.3 degrees this year, Scambos said. The mercury dips lower on clear nights, when clouds can't trap heat.

But Guinness World Records should hold off with its proclamations, he added.

The new measurements reflect the temperature on the ridge's surface, while the Vostok record was set in the air about six feet above the ground, Scambos noted. This time, the data came from satellite sensors that could only measure the surface temperature, and even though it would be difficult to physically travel to the ridge in the dead of winter, it's still safe to assume a record had been set, he said.

"The air temperature there is likely to be several degrees colder than the air temperature at Vostok," Scambos said.

That means if you're standing on the Antarctic ridge, your head will still freeze about as quickly as your feet.