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Antarctica takes position number one among the coldest places on earth. Mostly uninhabited except for penguin and seal colonies found along the coast, Antarctica has practically no match on the temperature department. At the Plateau Station, temperatures can easily plummet to -119.23° Fahrenheit (-84° Celsius) and the annual average temperature barely reaches -32.8°F (-36°C). The record as the coldest place, however, goes to Vostok Station, Antarctica, where the temperature reached -129°F (-89.4°C) on 21 July 1983. Scientists are the only humans to live on Antarctica for months at a time, and even they do it only in summer.
Of all inhabited areas, one of the coldest areas in the world is Siberia. Although global warming has taken a toll on Siberian winters over the past decade, it's normal for temperatures to reach -60°F (-51.1°C) in January. Oymyakon, in Eastern Siberia, has an average winter temperature of -49°F (−45°C), and may have reached a low of -96.16°F (-71.2°C), although the official record is -90°F (-67.7°C). The little village is home to 900 permanent residents, who endure winter for nine months out of the year, and considered -30°F (−34.4°C) "balmy." The area is so cold that empty plastic bags taken outside will freeze within minutes and then crack like glass.
Outside of Russia, the prize for one of the coldest areas goes to Greenland, where the cities of Northice and Eismitte frequently see temperatures of -50°F (-45.5°C). The Yukon, Canada, falls close behind by only a few degrees. In the US, one of the coldest places is definitively International Falls, Minnesota, where temperatures normally reach -32°F (-35.5°C) in winter. Prospect Creek, Alaska, has broken several records in the American continent, including reaching -79.8°F (-62.1°C) in 2003.
To survive in the coldest places in the world, humans have had to adapt their environment and lifestyle significantly. Everything freezes at such low temperatures, from electronics to gasoline to pen ink; batteries lose power and pipes crack under the pressure exerted by ice and snow. In Ojmjakon, children are not allowed to play outside for more than 20 minutes at a time during a typical winter day. At -60°F (-51.1°C), their lungs can freeze and collapse. Despite all the difficulties, humans have found a way to change the environment and survive. Many of the coldest areas in the world now attract tourists who are eager to see, at least for a few days, what real winter is all about.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the coldest place on Earth and how cold can it get?
The coldest place on Earth is Antarctica, specifically a high ridge on the East Antarctic Plateau where temperatures can plummet to below -130 degrees Fahrenheit (-89.2 degrees Celsius). The lowest temperature ever recorded was -128.6 degrees Fahrenheit (-89.2 degrees Celsius) at the Vostok Station in Antarctica on July 21, 1983, according to the World Meteorological Organization.
Are there any permanently inhabited places that are among the coldest in the world?
Yes, there are permanently inhabited places that rank among the coldest in the world. Oymyakon, a rural locality in Russia, is often cited as the coldest permanently inhabited place on Earth, with temperatures reaching as low as -96.16 degrees Fahrenheit (-71.2 degrees Celsius) in 1924. Despite these extreme conditions, it has a population of around 500 people.
How do the coldest temperatures on Earth compare to those on other planets?
Earth's coldest temperatures are mild compared to those on other planets in our solar system. For instance, Mars experiences temperatures as low as -195 degrees Fahrenheit (-125 degrees Celsius), while on Jupiter's moon Europa, temperatures can drop to a chilling -370 degrees Fahrenheit (-223 degrees Celsius). These extraterrestrial temperatures are far more extreme than the coldest recorded on Earth.
What are the effects of extreme cold on the environment and wildlife?
Extreme cold can have significant effects on the environment and wildlife. In such conditions, plant growth is severely limited, and only specialized flora and fauna can survive. Animals have adapted through behavioral changes, such as migration and hibernation, and physical adaptations like thick fur or blubber. Permafrost in these regions can store large amounts of carbon, which, if thawed due to climate change, could release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
How do humans adapt to living in the coldest places in the world?
Humans adapt to living in the coldest places in the world through a combination of technological, architectural, and social strategies. They build insulated homes, use specialized heating systems, and wear layered clothing designed for extreme cold. Communities are often close-knit, with a strong sense of cooperation and shared resources, which is crucial for survival in such harsh climates. Dietary adjustments also play a role, with a focus on high-calorie foods to maintain body heat.