Taking Landsat to the Extreme: The Coldest Place on Earth

Release Date:

What is the coldest place on Earth? It is a high ridge in Antarctica on the East Antarctic Plateau where temperatures in several hollows can dip below minus 133.6 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 92 degrees Celsius) on a clear winter night.

What is the coldest place on Earth? It is a high ridge in Antarctica on the East Antarctic Plateau where temperatures in several hollows can dip below minus 133.6 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 92 degrees Celsius) on a clear winter night.

With remote sensing satellites, including Landsat 8, researchers have recorded new measurements of the Earth's coldest temperatures. The satellite imagery not only allows scientists to take the temperature of these inhospitable locations, but enables them to figure out what sort of weather brings on the record-breaking cold.

The quest to find out just how cold it can get on Earth -- and why -- started when NASA researchers were studying large snow dunes, sculpted and polished by the wind, on the East Antarctic Plateau. When the scientists looked closer, they noticed cracks in the snow surface between the dunes, 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 : MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer)AVHRR (Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer), and Landsat 8 - TRS (Thermal Infrared Sensor).