The Coldest Temperatures Ever Recorded On Earth

The Russian-controlled Vostok Station.
The Russian-controlled Vostok Station.

Many of the places that experience record low temperatures lie at high latitudes. Vostock, Amundsen-Scott, and Dome Argus lie in Antarctica. Meanwhile, Verkhoyansk and Oymyakon in Yakuta, North Ice in Greenland, Ust-Sceyer in Shchugor, Komi Republic, Russia, and the Alaskan Snag, Yukon, Canada, and Prospect Creek in the USA lie within the Arctic Circle. Roger Pass at 1,710 meters is cold due its altitude and the occurrence of cold waves. Uvs Nur, a lake basin in Central Asia ,is cold due to a combination of its latitude of 50°N, its altitude of 800 meter and geological reasons, as it has remnants of glaciers from the Pleistocene period.

Life in the Severe Cold

The places in Antarctica are colder than those in the Arctic Circle, as it is a vast land mass surrounded by oceans, while the Arctic is a large ocean dotted with islands or bordered by land. So the inland Antarctica is far from the moderating influence of water masses. Therefore, while there are a few million people living in the Arctic, there only a few thousands who live in Antarctica, for research.

In Russia, Verkhoyansk was initially considered the coldest city in the world, and has the largest range of temperature on earth, at around 105° Celsius (189° Fahrenheit) between extremes. The city wanted to use this reputation to attract tourism, however the nearby city of Oymyakon which also lies within the Arctic Circle is now considered colder. The two cities want to use tourism to boost their economy with attractions including reindeer sleigh rides and local cultural events. People have lived for many generations in this region. The long cold winter months with average temperatures of -40° Celsius and a short summer makes agriculture difficult. People still practice traditional occupations as hunters, wood gatherers and trappers. These cities do however have modern amenities and facilities such as a school, a hospital, and shops, and Oymyakon even has an airport that operates in summer.

Some other places, such as the Uvs Lake Basin, has a range of habitats from cold desert to desert-steppe and steppe, conifer, deciduous and floodplain forests to diverse wetlands and marshlands, freshwater and saltwater systems, mobile and fixed sand dunes and even tundra. So it is important for research and nature conservation. Prospect Creek has no agriculture, and only sparse natural vegetation as it is subarctic. Roger Pass is also a wilderness, important for being the migratory route for many birds including the golden and the bald eagles. The harsh climatic conditions, with sub-zero temperatures and winds, especially in Antarctica, have made exploration of the polar-regions rare.

Global Warming and the Poles

The polar regions are more affected by climate change than other parts of the earth. While the world temperatures have increased by 0.60.6° Celsius (1.0° Fahrenheit) in the last century, the Arctic has warmed two times faster, by 3.0° Celsius, for example in Alaska, while in Antarctica the rise in temperature has been 2.5° Celsius (4.5° Fahrenheit). Ice and snow usually reflect incoming solar radiation. Global warming that started somewhere else, has melted and decreased ice cover at the poles. The decreased ice and snow cover means less sunlight is reflected and more is absorbed by earth surfaces that are now exposed, increasing warming.As the summer ice cover, and permafrost areas decrease, polar bears and walruses populations are dwindling due to loss of habitats. Similarly melting of ice fields is reducing penguin numbers in the Antarctica.

The Coldest Recorded Temperatures In The World

RankTemperature (°C )LocationDate
1-89.2Vostok Station, Antarctica1983-07-21
2-82.8Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station, South Pole1982-06-23
3-82.5Dome A2005–07
4-67.8Verkhoyansk and Oymyakon, both in Sakha Republic, Russia 1892-02-07, 1933-02-06
5-66.1North Ice, Greenland1954-01-09
6-63Snag, Yukon, Canada1947-02-03
7-62.1Prospect Creek, Alaska, US1971-01-23
8-58.1Ust' Shchugor, Komi Republic, Russia1978-12-31
9-58.0Uvs Lake, Mongolia1974
10−57 Rogers Pass, Montana, US1954-01-20

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