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Cold Record in the Antarctic

Minus 50.2 degrees Celsius.

1:20 PM, Jul 22, 2010 • By JOHN ROSENTHAL
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Courtesy of the U.S. government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the news media has been full of reports in the last few days about last month being the “hottest June” yet recorded and 2010 being on track likewise to be the hottest year. Such reports concern the “global temperature”: a theoretical value, which has, of course, to be derived from local temperature readings and which consequently depends on the methods employed by researchers in calculating it.

Cold Record in the Antarctic

The Neumayer station on the Antarctic coast.

When, however, actual temperature readings reveal record cold, this apparently is not news. So it was in May, when much of Europe was experiencing unseasonably cold weather. Germany, for instance, was hit with major snowstorms in May. In the middle of the month, the German Weather Service quietly acknowledged that the country was experiencing record cold: some 3-5 degrees Celsius below the long-term averages.

And so it was also last week, when the Georg von Neumayer polar research station on the Antarctic coast recorded the lowest temperature reading since the station was first established in 1981: minus 50.2 degrees Celsius.  “This is the first time that we have dipped below the -50 degree mark,” meteorologist Gert König-Langlo said last Thursday, as reported by the German news magazine Focus and the wire service DPA. König-Langlo explained that “the cause is the persistent lack of cloud cover and paucity of wind,” conditions which he described as being “very rare in the region.”

The Neuymayer station is a facility of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, Germany. According to a Wegener Institute press release, the long-term temperature readings at the Neumayer station have displayed no particular trend in recent years. (The press release is currently available here, but note that there is no dedicated permalink.)

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