The coldest place on Earth: Blowing snow conditions at a camp site near Vostok Station in Antarctic summer.
The East Antarctic Plateau is a windswept desolate expanse the size off Australia with few bases or instruments.
Just how cold can it get on Earth?
For the temperature to drop that low, clear skies and dry air need to persist for several days, the researchers say.
But even when it is that dry and cold, the air traps some of the heat and sends it back to the surface. That's probably because cold air sinks into these depressions like it sinks into a river valley or a canyon, says John Turner, a polar scientist with the British Antarctic Survey who was not involved in the study.
After all, the ideal conditions have to persist for several days before these hollows become that cold. But on Earth there are much, much colder places. The coldest of the cold temperatures dropped to minus 135.8 F (minus 93.2 C) - several degrees colder than the previous record.
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This is because once the temperature drops below a certain point, the air cools so slowly that it can't get significantly colder before an inevitable change in weather conditions. But satellites can sense the temperature at the surface of the ice as they pass overhead.
The record low, measured on the East Antarctic Plateau, which includes the South Pole, didn't identify a particular date, but rather relied on analyzing data captured by satellites between 2004 and 2016 to show that this low temperature occurs whenever the conditions are right.
The study has found that dry air is also the key to ultra-cold temperatures. But the new study adds a twist to the story: Not only are clear skies necessary, but the air must also be extremely dry, because water vapor traps some heat in the air.
Persistent winds shape the surface of East Antarctica?s snow into small dune forms called "sastrugi". Weather stations could log problems precisely as they are, however satellites could cover a lot higher locations all the time.
However, an updated analysis using data gathered by NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites and NOAA's Polar Operational Environmental Satellites during the Southern Hemisphere's winter between 2004 and 2016, came up with lower values.
The researchers initially saw a broad region of the plateau more than 3,500 meters (11,000 feet) above sea level where temperatures regularly dropped below minus 90 degrees Celsius (minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit) at the snow surface. Almost every winter temperatures dropped below -130 degrees Fahrenheit at an area 11,000 feet above sea level. By comparing the satellite measurements to data from the nearest weather stations, Scambos and his team figured out that the air temperatures in this region would be a little warmer near human-head height, about minus 94°C. This very low-temperature air allows the snow in these hollows to radiate even more heat, allowing for the extraordinarily low ground temperature.
The new low point is officially minus 98 degrees Celsius (minus 144 degrees Fahrenheit), a temperature that "appears to be about as low as it is possible to reach" according to the worldwide team of researchers who worked on the new study.