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John Campbell's novella Who Goes There? was adapted into one of my favorite movies, The Thing (1982).

In it, I came upon an interesting claim about temperature in the Antarctic:

..no wind could blow at ­-70 degrees, [and] no more than a 5 ­mile wind could blow at ­-50 without causing warming due to friction with ground, snow and ice and the air itself.

I'm pretty sure he meant degrees Fahrenheit, but he possibly could have meant degrees Celsius since they were all scientists.

Anyways my question (for both degrees F and C) is can there be any wind in the Antarctic at -70 degrees? Can there be more than a 5 mph (8 km/h) wind at -50 degrees?

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As devsolar points out, -70 degrees (F or C) combined with moderate wind speeds is certainly possible in some ice cap climates, such as Vostok station and the South Pole. Click the following link to see recorded temperatures and wind speeds for the latter in August of this year.

I should also point out that there are Youtube videos available of researchers in Antarctica during such conditions. One such researcher was Carlos Pobes who was a South Pole winter-over that documented the sensations of such temperatures in 2012:

-50C: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PpdH26bH3yU

-50 to -60C: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNwqrCHbDbk

-65 to -75C: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pouC_UQ0ssA

-100F: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TXevL17UDg&pbjreload=10

In the first three videos, it is clear that it is quite windy in certain parts (though difficult to quantify how much).

However, I should mention that an ice sheet is the only possible place** on Earth to see -70 degrees F with wind. In the small handful of other places where this temperature has been recorded (e.g., Oymyakon, Verkhoyansk, Tok AK, Fort Vermillion, Fort Yukon, Old Crow, Rogers Pass MT, etc), such a temperature has always been attributed to intense radiative cooling in a depression, which in turn causes a temperature inversion, which would not be possible with any wind whatsoever. It is possible that the author of that novel was vaguely aware of this (albeit misattributing the warming effect of wind to friction), and perhaps thought that ice cap climates work the same way (not taking into account altitude difference and other factors which contribute to more extreme conditions atop ice sheets).


**Actually it is also possible on very high mountaintops such as Denali, but I am counting that as an altitude-induced ice sheet climate.

  • 1
    Well I added some things in that last paragraph; not sure if that's what you are looking for though. – Shalop Dec 11 '19 at 0:49
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    @devsolar I don’t know what happened to your answer, but in case you deleted it, you should put it back because it seemed fine (modulo that one factual inaccuracy in the first sentence). My answer here is not intended as a full answer, but rather as a supplement to what you wrote. – Shalop Dec 11 '19 at 7:56

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