Earth shatters all-time cold temperature

Author: Blake Mathews, Weather producer, meteorologist, bmathews@wjxt.com
Published On: Dec 10 2013 01:00:24 AM EST   Updated On: Dec 11 2013 05:47:36 AM EST
anarctica

Earth has set a new all-time cold weather record: -135.8°F (-93.2°C)! This beats the old record of -128.6 degrees in 1983. It's hard to put into words just how cold that is. In fact, I've had a brain freeze trying to think of a way. Ba dum dum, HEY!

Let's look at it this way: The new record is 142.8 degrees colder than Jacksonville's all-time record low of 7 degrees. According to the Associated Press,  it is so cold, that scientists have to breathe through a snorkeler that goes up the sleeve of their coat to warm the air up before they inhale it. 

It is described as "soul-crushing cold." It literally hurts to breathe. It turns deadly in about 3 minutes.

Unfortunately, the record will not be official because it was measured via satellites.  The exact location of the reading is not known except to say that it is near the South Pole on the eastern flank of the continent of Antarctica. The measurement was made in August of 2010.

So how does such a place get so cold?

The reality is that the Antarctic ice cap is perfectly positioned with perfect atmospheric conditions to allow temperatures to free fall to temperatures that are more common of the Mars polar regions than Earth's. 

Antarctica is the coldest place on Earth. The reasons being are pretty straight forward.

First, unlike the North Pole which is essentially the Arctic ocean frozen over, sits at sea level. Antarctica does not. In fact the average elevation of the continent, according to NASA, is 2200 meters or about 6,600 feet. As air rises it cools allowing for more dramatic cold.

Second, the atmosphere is very thin over the polar regions allowing any trapped "heat" to quickly reflect off the bright white surface back into space. This also allows the temperatures to fall. 

Antarctica is now about to transition into the southern hemisphere Summer. So piercing cold like that will be abated for the next few months. But wow, what an incredible feat!