In which region of the world is the coldest place in the world? What’s your tip? Greenland, Russia or maybe Canada? One thing is certain: nowhere else on earth does it get as cold as it does here.
Coldest place in the world: temperatures at record low
The coldest place in the world is a deserted, snow-covered and icy region. The official record low is an unbelievable minus 89.2 degrees Celsius and dates from June 21, 1983. When it is summer here in Central Europe, it is deepest winter at the coldest point on earth – more precisely: Antarctic polar night.
The absolutely coldest place in the world is in Antarctica. The lowest air temperature ever recorded was recorded at the Russian research station Vostok in East Antarctica. The station is located above a frozen lake at an altitude of almost 3,500 meters. The research station is used by Russian, American and French researchers to carry out ice core drilling and weather observations.
The record value was once beaten
The region around Vostok is known as the “cold pole of the earth”. The icy temperatures come about because the air at such heights seems to favor the winter cooling. The official record of almost minus 90 degrees Celsius was even undercut in 2004.
Satellite measurements recorded a temperature of minus 98.6 degrees Celsius to the northwest of the Vostok research station – almost 100 degrees below freezing point. The temperature was measured directly on the ice surface using an infrared spectrometer. The research station therefore marks the coldest place in the world.
That is also the reason why this is only an “unofficial” record. In international measurements, the standard temperature is measured two meters above the ground. Therefore, the record low from 1983 of minus 89.2 degrees Celsius still applies.
As hostile to life as Mars
Such temperatures are so extreme that they seem out of this world. Humans are used to the fact that their home planet guarantees optimal conditions for life. But places like the Wostok research station have conditions that are about as hostile to life as the surface of Mars. The mean temperature there can even be much warmer, sometimes minus 63 degrees Celsius.
But like a potential Mars station, the Vostok research station in the eternal ice of the Antarctic is only an outpost and not a permanent residence. In parts of Siberia, for example, where the continental climate drops to 50 degrees below freezing in winter.
The coldest inhabited place on earth
It is not the coldest place in the world, but few people want to live on this point on earth. In the Siberian town of Oymyakon, the average winter temperature is minus 50 degrees Celsius. And that’s just the average.
In the depths of the Siberian plains, neither vegetables nor fruit grow because the permafrost soil does not thaw sufficiently even in the very short summer. Therefore, fish and meat are the most important foods for the people of Oymyakon.
The coldest temperature ever recorded in the village was minus 72.2 degrees Celsius in 1924. However, this record was never confirmed. The official cold record, on the other hand, is minus 67.8 degrees and was set in 1933. At temperatures like this, people can only be outside for a few minutes. Because of the extremely cold pleasure, every breath can cause pain.
Satellite measurements collected over years to determine the coldest location
Researchers at the University of Colorado are responsible for the “unofficial” record. The team headed by Ted Scambos carried out countless measurements between 2004 and 2016 and, more than 150 times, received a value that was below minus 90 degrees Celsius, according to the results of the 2018 study.
Since their measurements are not considered official values, the researchers made a conversion. They estimate that minus 98 degrees Celsius on the surface corresponds to around 94 degrees Celsius at a height of two meters. This would have undercut the record set in 1983 by around four degrees.
It doesn’t get any colder
The University of Colorado team’s measurements spanned several hundred kilometers geographically. The value never fell below minus 98 degrees. The research team concludes from this that this temperature could represent a kind of upper limit for freezing temperatures.
Only if “ideal” conditions remained constant for weeks and months could even lower temperatures be reached. Due to the ongoing climate change and the increasing humidity, this is extremely unlikely.
The coldest place on earth was just one of many very, very cold areas during the Ice Age. Why the Ice Age came about at all is still a matter of debate. Researchers believe it is possible that a supernova triggered the Ice Age. They also recently learned how old the earth really is.
It is common knowledge that the blue planet is doing worse and worse due to climate change. You can find out what the research numbers actually mean here.
Sources: weather.com, WELT, own research