Scientists working at the United States National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) said this week they have identified the coldest place on Earth using satellite observations of surface temperature.
Previously, the record for lowest near-surface air temperature was held by Vostok Station, Antarctica, where the temperature fell to −89.2°C on 21 July 1983.
In a paper published in 2009 examining the Vostok record minimum temperature, BAS scientist Professor John Turner and colleagues predicted that sites along the Dome Fuji (Dome F)— Dome Argus (Dome A) ridge could experience even colder temperatures than Vostok.
Although this region is higher than Vostok, cold air tends to drain off the ridge and then “pools” over Vostok, where the ice sheet surface is very flat, making Vostok colder than sites higher on the ridge.
Professor Turner suggested that if there were locally flat areas higher on the ridge then temperatures could fall as low as −95°C. The NSIDC study appears to have confirmed this prediction as they have identified regions close to the ice divide between Dome Fuji and Dome Argus where surface temperatures fall to between −92 and −94 °C.
There is more work to be done however as the satellite measurements of surface temperature are not directly comparable with the air temperatures measured at Vostok. However there is a strong possibility that air temperatures in the region identified by NSIDC may have broken the Vostok record, making this the coldest place on the Earth’s surface.
NSIDC scientists hope to verify the satellite measurements by installing automatic weather stations to record air temperature directly in this inhospitable region.
Press Release Jan 2010 – New research sheds light on Earth’s coldest temperatures