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Weather forecasting and analysis, space and historic events, climate information

2:00 PM | Coldest temperature ever recorded

Paul Dorian



The hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth was 134°F just over a century ago in Death Valley, CA and now newly analyzed NASA satellite data from East Antarctica shows Earth set a new record for coldest temperature ever at -135.8°F. This new record is 50 degrees colder than anything that has ever been seen in Alaska or Siberia. It happened in August 2010 and was nearly matched on July 31st of this year when the temperature dropped to -135.3°F. The previous cold temperature record of -128.6°F, which was measured using a thermometer, had been set in July 1983 at a Russian research station in East Antarctica.

This news concerning the coldest temperature ever recorded has hit the news in recent days since it was presented earlier this week at a scientific conference in California. “It’s more like you’d see on Mars on a nice summer day in the poles” said the scientist presenting the results. He added “I’m confident that these pockets are the coldest places on Earth”.

The discovery was made by analyzing global surface temperature maps using data from remote sensing satellites. Specifically, the Antarctica measurements were made by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor on board NASA's Aqua satellite and by Landsat 8, a satellite launched early this year by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey. In many respects, satellite observations for temperatures are now preferred over conventional measurements made by thermometers which often have, for example, “urban heat island” effects to deal with when comparisons are made to other time periods in the past. After studying 32 years’ worth of satellite data they found that temperatures had plunged to record lows many times on a high ridge between Dome Argus and Dome Fuji on the East Antarctica Plateau. The report also maintains that the winters of 1997, 2001, 2003 and 2004 showed several temperature minima below -90°C.

Despite the new recorded low temperature, it will not be entered into the Guinness Book of World Records because the temperature was satellite measured. The official record low temperature will continue to be the -128.6°F measured (by thermometer) in July 1983 and, of course, the Death Valley high temperature record was based on a thermometer reading a century ago.