A mild snow dusted New York City this morning, transforming ordinarily grumpy commuters into grumpy commuters who were also cold and wet. And while frigid winter weather continues to batter most corners of the country, it's still a distant cry from just-in temperature readings from Eastern Antarctica, which recently experienced the coldest day in recorded history.
Just how cold is cold? According to new NASA satellite data, the region hit a bone-chilling -135.7 degrees Fahrenheit (-93.2 degrees Celsius) back in August 2010, shattering the previous world record set at the Russian research station in Vostok, Antarctica, on July 21, 1983 by seven degrees. Then in July of this year, temperatures again nearly dipped to those levels at -135.3 degrees.
"Soul-crushing" cold is how scientists delicately describe such frigid conditions, which, it should be noted, aren't particularly hospitable to human life. Indeed, even taking a breath in that temperature range could result in debilitating pain.
Mike Stroud, the medic on hand during adventurer Ranulph Fiennes' attempt to cross the Antarctic on foot this year (which ended up costing Fiennes a finger), describes the experience rather bluntly:
When you're breathing very cold air you get respiratory damage. I have ended up coughing blood in less extreme places than this. [New Scientists]
Here's the bad news, though. The recent record shattering temperature probably won't be recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records or the World Meteorological Organization. That's because the readings were measured by NASA satellites, and not thermometers. Until temperature readings are taken from the ground, as Arizona State University professor of geography Randy Cerveny notes, "Vostok is still the world's coldest recorded location."