Coldest Places on Earth
Are you one of those people who keeps turning up the thermostat? Do you get an ice cream headache just from being around guys named Ben or Jerry? Well, put on one of those big furry hats with those flaps that make you look like a Wookie reject, you’re about to go where no heat has gone before. A place so cold that the Abominable Snowman won’t lick a flagpole there. Welcome to Oymyakon, Russia.
With a year-round population of about 800 shivering people, Oymyakon became the coldest inhabited place in the world on January 26, 1926 when the temperature dropped to minus 71.2 degrees Celsius or minus 96.2 degrees Fahrenheit. How cold is that? To put it in perspective, at minus 60 degrees Celsius, spit will freeze before it hits the ground. Nothing grows there so the locals live on frozen fish, reindeer and horsemeat. Mmm. They have to leave their cars running all day so the fuel doesn’t freeze. But don’t think they’re not tough. The school in Oymyakon stays open until the temperature reaches minus 52 degrees Celsius. Brr!
How can anyone live in Oymyakon without breaking a tooth every time they try to take a drink of water? Two words. Hot springs. Believe it or not, the coldest place on earth is named for a nearby hot spring that keeps the town’s water supply from freezing. Which means residents of Oymyakon can spend more time ice fishing and less time blowing on their hands. Not that this is a problem year round. Another claim to fame of this chilly chalet is that it holds the world record for the greatest temperature difference between summer and winter. One year, the temperature in the summer was 109.2 degrees Celsius or 196.6 degrees Fahrenheit higher than in the winter. Which brings up an interesting question. What’s the difference between Celsius and Fahrenheit?
The Fahrenheit temperature scale was invented in 1724 by physicist Daniel Fahrenheit. On this scale, 32 degrees is the point where water freezes, 212 degrees is where it boils and zero degrees is the point where salt water freezes. To take things a step further, the Third Law of Thermodynamics defines the coldest temperature possible as absolute zero, which is minus 273.4 degrees Celsius or minus 459.67 degrees Fahrenheit. In 1999, researchers at the Low Temperature Lab in Helsinki, cooled a piece of rhodium metal to one tenth of one billionth of a degree above absolute zero. Making it the coldest place on earth, at least for a few seconds.
On July 21st, 1983, the temperature at Vostok Station, a Russian research camp in Antarctica, dropped to minus 126.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the coldest naturally occurring temperature on the Earth’s surface ever. Only a dozen or so scientists live there in the winter and we have to take their word for the temperature because the mercury in a thermometer freezes solid at around 40 below zero. That’s close to the 46 degrees below zero record low set in International Falls, Minnesota, making it the coldest town in the continental United States and the owner of the nickname, “Icebox of the Nation.” Another bone chilling place is the village of Hell, Norway, which freezes over every year from December through March. If freezing cold weather tickles your fancy, then maybe these artic places are right up your alley!