Marine cold air outbreaks (MCAOs) are events where cold air flows over a relatively warm sea surface. Such outbreaks are associated with severe mesoscale weather systems that are not generally resolved in global climate models, such as polar lows and boundary-layer fronts. Here, an analysis of winter climatology and variability of MCAOs in the Southern Hemisphere (SH) is presented. Near the sea ice edge, north–south fluctuations of the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) index are key, while further north, large-scale wave disturbances are needed to move air masses far enough away from the Antarctic continent to instigate MCAOs. Unlike in the Northern Hemisphere (NH), the spatial patterns of mean and extreme values of the MCAO index differ considerably. Near 60°S, both mean and extreme values of the index are similar to those found in the main MCAO regions in the NH. Further north, the mean MCAO index is quite high, but the extreme values are much lower than in the NH. We conclude that MCAOs in the SH are as widespread and can be as strong as in the NH, but severe MCAOs near densely populated regions such as the Tasman Sea are less common than in the Nordic Seas and near Japan.