How cold is it?

Casey station expeditioner with ice on clothes and beard
Casey station expeditioner with ice on clothes and beard (Photo: Craig Butsch)
Arriving at Cape Poinsett Navigating a safe passage across the tide crackParticipating in the midwinter swim

Antarctica is the coldest continent on earth. The farther from the coast one goes the higher and colder it becomes. In most coastal regions the mean annual temperature is around −12°C, at 1000 metres −20°C, and in the highest parts near 4000 m it falls to −60°C. The lowest surface temperature ever recorded in nature was −89°C at the Russian Vostok station, within the Australian Antarctic Territory.

The video shows the unusual effect of throwing boiling water into the air when the temperature is below about −25°C. Because of the cold dry Antarctic air and the increased surface area of the boiling water droplets when thrown, the water evaporates and then forms a mist of ice and supercooled water droplets.

[Video]

Boiling to freezing in seconds at Mawson station!

Video transcript

Mel Fitzpatrick:

“Come on outside.

I've got here, freshly boiled water … and extreme cold.

If I throw this up into the air, the water won't hit the ground. It will come out as ice crystals. Watch carefully…

All of it actually froze, before the water hit the ground.

Minus 28 out here. It's fresh! I'm going back inside.”

This page was last modified on 11 March 2003.