Thursday, 9 January 2014

Dome Argus, -93.2º C
- colder than the average on Mars

The coldest place on Earth has recently been measured by satellite to minus 93.2 Celsius (-135.8 F).
It is located on a high ridge in Antarctica, on the East Antarctic Plateau, where temperatures in several hollows can dip that much below zero on a clear winter night.

The ridge runs between two summits on the ice sheet: Dome Argus (the highest peak of the East Antarctic Plateau, over 4000 m) and Dome Fuji .

Ridge A plateau

A researcher on Dome A summit

Dome A or Dome Argus (80°22′ S, 77°21′ E) is part of an Antarctic plateau located 1200 kilometres inland. It is the highest ice feature in Antarctica, near the center of East Antarctica.
Dome Argus is not really a mountain in the conventional sense of the word, but just the highest point in the Range.

The lowest observed temperatures are not on crests but on downside slopes, under strong wind blows.

At an elevation of 4000 m, the ridge is not only remote but extremely cold and dry. The study revealed that the water content of the entire atmosphere in a vertical column above the ridge is equivalent to a layer of water less than the thickness of a human hair.

The ridge is also extremely calm, which means that there is very little of the atmospheric turbulence elsewhere that makes stars appear to twinkle. A perfect place for astronomic observations.

It’s so calm that there’s almost no wind or weather there at all. The astronomical images taken at Ridge A should be at least three times sharper than at the best sites currently used by astronomers. Because the sky there is so much darker and drier, it means that a modestly-sized telescope there would be as powerful as the largest telescopes anywhere else on earth.”

You can't survive at -93º C, even for some minutes, without an insulated heated suit like the astronauts use in space. Any exposed bit of flesh will freeze instantly.

This area can stay in complete darkness for 5 full months during local winter.

The closest human settlement is the chinese Kunlun Research Station.

Kunlun station is only inhabited during antarctic summer for a reason: CO2 transforms from a gas into dry ice at -78.5°C so at such temperatures human body turns into a frozen statue within a matter of minutes.

Chinese researchers who were constructing the station had to wear electronically-heated clothes to do the job there. And scientists believe that temperature at Dome A might fall as low as -102°C !

I have already signaled here the coldest permanently inhabited place on earth as the russian village of  Oymyakon, with a record low of -71.2 ºC.

By way of comparison, the hottest spot recorded on Earth - again by satellite sensor - is the Dasht-e Lut salt desert in southeast Iran, where it reached 70.7º C in 2005.