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15 November, 2004

How cold does it get in Antarctica?

The lowest recorded temperature in Antarctica is -89 C (-128 F) at Vostock Base, which is a Russian research station in the interior of Antarctica. It doesn't get that cold where I am at McMurdo Station. That is because we are located on an island; the ocean water is warmer than the air over the continent and it causes our temperatures to be warmer too. The coldest temperature recorded in the McMurdo area is -57 C (-71 F) and the coldest temperature recorded at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole is -78 C (-108 F). Both Vostock and the South Pole are located far from the warmer ocean water.

Below is a chart with the monthly averages for McMurdo and South Pole. Remember that these are average temperatures. That means that certain times of the day, temperatures are warmer than this and at other times they are lower. The average temperature is between the high and the low temperatures. If you need help converting temperatures from Centigrade to Fahrenheit, go to <http://www.albireo.ch/temperatureconverter/>.

One thing to consider is that these temperatures do not account for the wind-chill factor. the wind-chill factor tells us how cold we feel when the wind is blowing. When the wind blows, it feels colder than the actual temperature. Antarctica is the windiest continent and we typically have very strong winds...last week we had winds in McMurdo that almost topped 100 miles per hour! If you want to learn how the wind affects how we feel the temperature, go to: <http://www.learner.org/exhibits/weather/act_windchill/>. This calculator only works for Fahrenheit temperatures, and it is really amazing!

The temperatures the past few days in McMurdo have been quite warm and we have gone above freezing several times. This means that McMurdo is really a muddy mess! The South Pole temperatures have been lower than normal.

McMurdo South Pole

January -2.9 -28.2 C

February -9.5 C -40.9 C

March -18.2C -54 C

April -20.7 C -57.3 C

May -21.7 C -57 C

June -23 C -58 C

July -25.7 C -59.7 C

August -26.1 C -60 C

September -24.6 C -59.4 C

October -18.9 C -51.1 C

November -9.7 C -38.3 C

December -3.4 C -27.5 C

AVERAGE -16.9 C -49 C

Below are some storm pictures from McMurdo Station.

This is the science laboratory at McMurdo after a storm in December 2003 (Kristen Hutchison/National Science Foundation).

Storm in McMurdo

The weather has been great most of the time!

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