Thanks P (age 8) for this great question! A lot of people are curious about how cold it gets in Antarctica.
I often get messages from people who are planning a trip to Antarctica and are a bit worried about how cold it will be. And I’m happy to tell them: it might not be as cold as you think!
The coldest temperature I have been outside in
The coldest temperature I’ve ever been outside in was -40°C! It was so cold I could feel the hairs inside my nose freezing each time I breathed in. I couldn’t spend more than a few minutes outside without my nose turning white and getting frostnip (which is a bit like frostbite, but not as bad).
But you know what? This wasn’t in Antarctica! It was in a place called Fernie, in Canada. It was the middle of winter, in the middle of a very, very cold snap!
Canada is cold, but Antarctica is definitely the coldest place on Earth.
The coldest part of Antarctica
The coldest part of Antarctica is here:
It’s almost in the middle of Antarctica – not far from the South Pole, and very far from the ocean.
In the middle of the winter it can get down to -93.3°C!!! You wouldn’t want to be outside for long in those kinds of temperatures!
The warmest part of Antarctica
The area where I work is nowhere near that cold! I work on the Antarctic Peninsula, which is the warmest part of Antarctica. And we only go during the summer.
The Antarctic Peninsula is the long finger of Antarctica that sticks out a bit like the handle of a pot on the left side of the picture above.
Most of our trips only visit the very northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula – the part sticking out of the circle in the picture below.
The areas we visit are amazing because of all the rocky beaches where we can visit penguin colonies. There’s plenty of snow and ice around, but there are also lots of snow-free areas where moss and lichen grow – there are even two ‘real’ (flowering) plants: Antarctic hair grass (Deschampsia antarctica) and Antarctic pearlwort (Colobanthus quitensis).
There are also many beautiful bays filled with glittering icebergs, where we can see seals and whales.
Every now and then we take a special trip inside the Antarctic Circle, which is very exciting. It usually takes a whole extra day to sail that far south, but it’s worth it. Once, we went for a little cruise inside the Antarctic Circle and counted over 100 seals!
How cold is it where I work?
We may not go to the coldest part of Antarctica – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t cold!
On a windy, snowy day it can be very cold – around -10°C or maybe even colder. That’s like a very cold day in the Snowy Mountains in Australia.
We need to wear lots of warm clothes – I often wear three layers of pants (thermals, with fleece pants over those and then waterproof pants), and four layers on my top half. I also wear a beanie, gloves, a neck gaiter and sunglasses or goggles to protect my eyes from the sun and wind.
But on a warm, calm and sunny day it can be well above zero – sometimes it’s so warm we’re outside in t-shirts!
At the beginning of 2020 there was a heatwave in Antarctica, and it got up above 18°C! That’s like a warm spring day in the Blue Mountains – definitely t-shirt weather!
Thanks again for your question P! What’s the coldest temperature you’ve been outside in? Let us know on Facebook or leave a reply below!
This post is part of my Antarctic Q&A series. If you have a question about Antarctica, you can submit it here or send it to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll write you a personalised response!
This blog post was written by Nina, an Antarctic guide based in Australia. If you have an Antarctic question for Nina, you can submit it here or send it to email@example.com.
You can support Nina’s work by shopping below or at The Antarctic Shop.