Jul 8, 2018

Go deeper: Finding the coldest temperature on Earth

Norwegian explorer Captain Roald Amundsen, the first man to reach the South Pole, inspecting ice fields in 1911. Photo: Keystone/Getty Images

In 2013, scientists announced that they had observed the coldest temperature on Earth near the South Pole at -135°F, but a new study re-analyzing that data found the temperature was really -144°F.

The big picture: Researchers scanning dips and hollows in the Antarctic ice sheet found that, over the last 14 years, there were many places where temperatures dropped to exactly -144°F but never colder, prompting them to postulate that this is the lowest possible temperature on Earth's surface.

  • In a press release, Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, said that -144°F seems to be the limit for temperature lows. That number could drop slightly lower if dry, clear conditions persisted for weeks on end, but that's extremely unlikely.
  • Extreme low temperatures require very clear and dry air to persist for several days, which makes it denser than warm air, so the pockets of extreme cold get trapped in hollows of the ice sheet. The coldest weather was found six to nine feet deep in these hollows.
  • To find this limit for cold temperatures, scientists have moved past using stationary weather stations to analyzing satellite data so they may survey larger areas with greater specificity.

Why it matters: Scambos told Axios that establishing weather extremes can help scientists more closely measure global environmental conditions as they change. "Increasing CO2 or water vapor would reduce the chance that such [low] temperatures will occur in the future — and they may have been a bit more frequent in the past."

  • Scambos noted that this more specific satellite method could eventually be trumped by higher spatial resolution that could uncover even colder temperatures, but that ultimate difference would be slight.

Go deeper: Read the full study here.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 782,319 — Total deaths: 37,582 — Total recoveries: 164,565.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in confirmed cases. Total confirmed cases as of 5 p.m. ET: 161,807 — Total deaths: 2,953 — Total recoveries: 5,595.
  3. Federal government latest: The White House will extend its social distancing guidelines until April 30.
  4. State updates: Rural-state governors say testing is still inadequate, contradicting Trump — Virginia, Maryland and D.C. issue stay-at-home orders to residents, joining 28 other states.
  5. Business latest: Ford and General Electric aim to make 50,000 ventilators in 100 days.
  6. In photos: Navy hospital ship arrives in Manhattan.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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First U.S. service member dies from coronavirus

Photo: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.

The Pentagon on Monday announced the death of a member of the New Jersey National Guard who tested positive for the coronavirus.

Why it matters: It's the first U.S. service member — active, reserve or Guard — to die from the virus, according to the Pentagon. The guardsman passed away on Saturday after being hospitalized for the novel coronavirus on March 21.

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Texas oil regulators poised to debate historic production controls

Workers extracting oil from oil wells in the Permian Basin in Midland, Texas. Photo: Benjamin Lowy/Getty Images

Texas oil regulators are likely to hold a hearing in April on whether to take the historic step to curb the state’s oil production amid a global market collapse fueled by the coronavirus.

Driving the news: Ryan Sitton, one of three commissioners of the Texas Railroad Commission, which oversees state oil production, told Axios that a hearing will likely be held soon in response to a renewed request earlier Monday from two oil companies to limit production as one way to stem the steep slide in global oil prices.