Speed Reads


Here's why Antarctica is so intensely cold

The coldest place on Earth is really, really cold.

In 2013, scientists pinpointed the lowest temperatures on Earth, in eastern Antarctica close to the South Pole, where the thermometer plunged to an almost inconceivably frigid negative 135 degrees Fahrenheit. But in a new study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters this week, scientists have proven that it can get even colder.

The study was led by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado at Boulder, which analyzed new data from NASA satellites and discovered temperatures as cold as negative 144 degrees Fahrenheit in that same region in Antarctica.

But it's not as simple as that — as it turns out, temperatures that cold start to do funny things to "the limits of thermodynamics," IFL Science reported. Even though the open air can be slightly warmer, colder air is heavier and can sink into "pockets" near the surface of the uneven terrain in that area. These "pockets" can only form under very dry conditions, when there's little to no water vapor in the air to trap heat.

The NSIDC plans to place instruments near the South Pole to confirm this study's results, but scientists believe that this may well be the very coldest temperature possible on the surface of the Earth.

Read more about the science behind this unique, extreme cold at IFL Science.