Results from the first detailed analysis of Earth’s lowest ever recorded surface temperature can explain why it got so cold and how cold it could possibly get. During the Antarctic winter of 1983, July temperatures plunged to a record-breaking −89.2°C at the Russian Vostok station — more than 30°C lower than the average winter temperature. Until this study, scientists did not understand why or how the temperature on the vast East Antarctic plateau could get so low.
BAS and Russian scientists found that for a 10-day period the air flow that is normally fed from the Southern Ocean on to the high Antarctic plateau almost stopped. A flow of cold air circling Vostok was preventing the mixing of this warmer air from lower latitudes, isolating the station and causing near optimum cooling conditions. Added to this was the absence of cloud cover and diamond dust (tiny particles of ice suspended in the air) allowing more heat from the ice surface to be lost to space.