Saturday, December 28, 2013
Coldest Place on Earth
We are slowly discovering some truly cold spots on Earth which may well serve as a valuable laboratory and manufacturing platform for exotic materials and tests in large bulk lots. Where else could one lay out tons of material on a test bed to process easily at these temperatures?
Of course, it would be wise to tunnel deep into the rock to protect humans working there and a closed heat system would also be wise.
Of course a whole range of technology would demand invention in order to work well here but to be honest; we need all this anyway in order to work in space, on the moon and on Mars. A full base on that particular ridge begins to look attractive.
On the other hand, penetrating with an adit and excavating a series of internal chambers is a pretty quick job and that internalizes the whole operation while it is happening. The trick is to go as large as can be mounted in the front end. Next season one can easily double up the working space with the same equipment and completely resupply as well.
Since this is an underground base, it makes sense to create domed chambers with cemented roofs in the first phase, then excavate downward deeply below the roof, then build the internal structure back up to the secure roof. Multiple ten story chambers with connecting multi story tunnels that also are wide enough to house living space provide a robust base.
This will be necessary because moving in and out of this base particularly needs to be minimized during the winter at least.
Polar-orbiting satellite locates the coldest place on Earth
It goes without saying that it's cold in Antarctica, but exactly how cold does it get? Scientists poring over more than 30 years of data from orbiting satellites have found one part of the Antarctic mountain ridge that actually got down to a record -93.2 degrees Celcius — the coldest temperature we've ever recorded anywhere on the planet.
This truly bone-chilly temperature was recorded on August 10th, 2010, along the East Antarctic Plateau, and it knocks the previous 'coldest place on Earth' — Vostok research station with its record of -89.2°C — off of its 26 year throne of ice.
Scientists from NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Centre discuss the new record in this video:
As for how temperatures can actually get down that low, rather than a very windy place, you actually need very still air that persists in one area for a long time, as this short video explains:
There are a few particularly amazing and scary facts about this discovery.
Firstly, this temperature is so cold that it goes far beyond any discussions of extreme cold you'll likely find. Environment Canada's guide on this kind of weather stops at "-55 and below" with warnings like "Extremely High risk: exposed skin can freeze in less than 2 minutes," "DANGER! Outdoor conditions are hazardous" and the simple advice of "stay indoors." Furthermore, that "-55 and below" isn't for temperature, but wind chill. The same strong breeze that can turn -30°C into a -55 wind chill can make -93.2°C feel more like -145. Yikes!
If you ever want to visit the East Antarctic Plateau, forget about the long underwear and parkas. Break out the space suits!