NASA Pinpoints The "Coldest Place On Earth"

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A remote ridge in the East Antarctic Plateau is the world's coldest place ( Credit: NASA.gov)

A remote area in Antarctica has been identified as the "coldest place on Earth." According to NASA, the temperatures in the East Antarctic Plateau can dip to a bone-chilling -136° F (-93.3° C). That is several degrees colder than the previous low of -128.6° F (-89.2° C) set in 1983 at the Russian Vostok Research Station in East Antarctica.

The quest to discover the world's lowest temperature began in 2010. Researchers from the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, were studying large snow dunes on the East Antarctic Plateau. They noticed cracks in the snow surface between the dunes. The scientists wondered if the cracks resulted from frigid wintertime temperatures that caused the top snow layer to shrink.

To investigate, they examined 32 years of data captured by the Landsat 8 and other satellites. The researchers found that temperatures plummeted to record lows dozens of times in small valleys between two summits in the East Antarctic Plateau. The new record of -136° F (-93.3° C) was set on August 10, 2010.

The team, led by Ted Scambos, has a theory on why the temperatures dip so low in the little valleys. When the skies are clear for a few days, heat from the ground radiates into space. This leaves behind a dense layer of extra-cold air above the surface of the ice. When the dense air slides into the valleys, it gets trapped and cools even further.

The East Antarctic plateau is the coldest place on Earth. But it is not the coldest permanently inhabited area. That record is held by Verkhoyansk and Oymyakon in northeastern Siberia. The towns recorded a bone-chilling -90° F (-67.8° C) in 1892 and 1933, respectively.

Resources: NASA.gov, Newatlas.com, science.nasa.gov

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