When we think about extreme weather conditions, the coldest temperatures on Earth often come to mind. This blog post will explore the coldest temperature ever recorded, where and when it happened, and why that location is so frigid. We’ll also look at other places known for their bone-chilling weather. Grab your warmest coat and gloves, and join us on this frosty journey.
No US locales made it to our list: but you can check our list of the coldest US cities for more.
The Coldest Temperature Ever Recorded: Vostok Station Antarctica
The lowest temperature ever recorded on Earth was an astonishingly cold -128.6°F (-89.2°C). This bone-chilling temperature was registered at the Soviet Union’s Vostok Station in Antarctica on July 21, 1983. Vostok Station s a Russian research facility near the center of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, about 808 miles (1,300 kilometers) from the South Geomagnetic Pole. However, it’s now being rebuilt to better withstand Antarctica’s harsh weather, something the original Vostok could not do.
Why is Vostok Station so Cold?
Antarctica is the coldest continent on Earth, and Vostok Station’s location contributes to its extreme conditions. There are several factors at play:
- Altitude: Vostok Station sits at an elevation of approximately 11,444 feet (3,488 meters) above sea level. The higher the altitude, the colder the air due to the thinner atmosphere and decreased ability to hold heat.
- Ice and Snow: The East Antarctic Ice Sheet is the largest ice mass on Earth, reflecting most of the sun’s radiation into space. This albedo effect limits the heat absorbed, keeping temperatures extremely low. Vostok is centrally located on this ice sheet.
- Polar Plateau: Vostok sits on the Polar Plateau, which experiences a unique meteorological phenomenon called a temperature inversion. Cold, dense air sinks to the surface, while warmer air remains above. This prevents heat from circulating and further contributes to the area’s frigidity.
- Polar Night: During the winter, the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon for an extended period, plunging the region into darkness and cold. This lack of sunlight exacerbates the already frigid temperatures.
Other Notoriously Cold Places on Earth
While Vostok Station holds the record for the coldest temperature ever recorded, other locations experience bone-chilling conditions throughout the year. Let’s take a look at some of these icy locales:
- Oymyakon, Russia: Known as the coldest inhabited place on Earth, Oymyakon is a remote village in Siberia with an average January temperature of -58°F (-50°C). The coldest temperature recorded in Oymyakon was -90°F (-67.7°C) in 1933.
- Verkhoyansk, Russia: Another Siberian town, Verkhoyansk, is famous for its extreme temperature fluctuations. Winter temperatures can plummet to -76°F (-60°C), while summer highs occasionally reach 86°F (30°C). The lowest temperature recorded in Verkhoyansk was -93.6°F (-69.8°C) in 1892. Fun fact: it also holds the record for the highest temperature ever recorded north of the Arctic Circle, 100°F (38°C), on June 20, 2020!
- Snag, Canada: Snag, a small village in the Yukon Territory, holds the record for the coldest temperature in North America. On February 3, 1947, the mercury dipped to an astounding -81.4°F (-63°C).
- Eismitte, Greenland: Eismitte, also known as Mid-Ice, is a research station located in the heart of Greenland’s ice cap. Due to its high elevation and inland position, temperatures at Eismitte often plummet below -40°F (-40°C) in winter. The lowest temperature recorded here was -85°F (-65°C) in 1931.
- Plateau Station, Antarctica: Although not as extreme as Vostok Station, Plateau Station is another Antarctic research facility that experiences frigid temperatures. The station is located at 11,500 feet (3,505 meters) and has recorded temperatures as low as -123°F (-84°C).
- Dome A, Antarctica: Dome A, or Dome Argus, is the highest ice feature on the Antarctic Plateau. It sits at 13,428 feet (4,093 meters) and is considered one of Earth’s coldest naturally occurring places, with temperatures dropping below -130°F (-90°C) in the winter. However, officially by a thermometer is -117°F (-83°C).
- Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia: As the world’s coldest capital city, Ulaanbaatar experiences long, harsh winters with average January temperatures of -13°F (-25°C). The city’s lowest recorded temperature was -49.5°F (-45.3°C) in 1957.
From the coldest-ever recorded temperature of Vostok Station to the consistently freezing climates of Oymyakon and Verkhoyansk, our planet is home to some genuinely frigid places. The reasons behind these extreme conditions are diverse, from high altitudes and ice reflection to temperature inversions and polar nights. While these locations may not be ideal for a tropical vacation, they offer a glimpse into Earth’s remarkable range of climates and environments. So bundle up and embrace the chill – after all, it’s all part of the incredible story of our planet’s diverse atmosphere.