Antarctica sets new Earth cold record

A jaw-dropping -135 degrees Fahrenheit.
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A jaw-dropping -135 degrees Fahrenheit.

Here's some cold comfort for everyone stuck in the deep freeze that's gripping the U.S. this week: it could be much, much worse. New satellite data has revealed that a small pocket of East Antarctica set a planetary record for freezing temps when it hit -135.8 degrees Fahrenheit back in August 2010. The polar region came thisclose to breaking its own record this past July when temps bottomed out at -135.3 degrees.

135 below. Consider that for a minute. That's almost as cold as objects get in the shade in outer space. At that temperature, breathing would be intensely painful (air would scald the lungs) and a human could only survive a minute or two. The Associated Press helps put things in perspective:

Ice scientist Ted Scambos at the National Snow and Ice Data Center said the new record is "50 degrees colder than anything that has ever been seen in Alaska or Siberia or certainly North Dakota."

"It's more like you'd see on Mars on a nice summer day in the poles," Scambos said, from the American Geophysical Union scientific meeting in San Francisco Monday, where he announced the data. "I'm confident that these pockets are the coldest places on Earth."

The new temperature record will not, however, appear in the Guinness Book of World Records because the data was taken from satellites, not ground thermometers. Nevertheless, it kind of makes you want to turn your heat up another notch, doesn't it?

Read more: Associated Press / Seattle Times