Coldest desert
Who
Antarctic Ice Sheet, McMurdo Dry Valleys
What
-89.2 degree(s) Celsius
Where
Not Applicable (Antarctica)
When
2005

As well as being the largest and driest desert, the Antarctic Ice Sheet, which occupies around 99% of the continent, is also the coldest desert on Earth. According to the British Antarctic Survey, winter temperatures on the coast average -10 to -30°C (14 to -22°F) and farther inland it can plummet to -60°C (-76°F) and beyond. The Antarctic Ice Sheet has also experienced the coldest recorded temperature of all time: -89.2°C (-128.6°F), logged at Russia's Vostok research station on 21 July 1983.

Even off the ice in the McMurdo Dry Valleys – the largest ice-free region of Antarctica, so more akin to "traditional" desert terrain – the mean annual temperature is -20ºC (-4ºF). The Dry Valleys cover an area of around 4,800 square kilometres (1,850 square miles) and are located west of the McMurdo Sound, between the Ross Sea and the Transantarctic Mountains. Despite the inhospitable conditions, and a complete lack of sunlight for much of the year, this polar desert does support life, though only in the form of micro-organisms.