The new record is several degrees colder than the previous low of minus 128.6 F (minus 89.2 C), set in 1983 at the Russian Vostok Research Station in East Antarctica. The coldest permanently inhabited place on Earth is northeastern Siberia, where temperatures dropped to a bone-chilling 90 degrees below zero F (minus 67.8 C) in the towns of Verkhoyansk (in 1892) and Oimekon (in 1933).
Scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center made the discovery by analyzing 32 years of data from several satellites that have mapped Antarctica’s surface temperature.
Near a high ridge that runs from Dome Arugs to Dome Fuji, the scientists found clusters of pockets that have plummeted to record low temperatures dozens of times. The lowest temperature the satellites detected was minus 136 F (minus 93.2 C), on Aug. 10, 2010.
The quest to find out just how cold it can get on Earth – and why – started when the researchers were studying large snow dunes on the East Antarctic Plateau. When the scientists looked closer, they noticed cracks in the snow surface between the dunes, which were possibly created when wintertime temperatures got so low the top snow layer shrunk. This led scientists to wonder what the temperature range was, and prompted them to hunt for the coldest places using data from satellite sensors.
Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.