7 of the Coldest Corners of the Earth Where People Actually Live
With the current cold streak that's taken over the blog lately (see: posts on the northernmost permanently inhabited place on earth, the Christmas wonderland in Michigan's backyard, and a trip to the top of the Keweenaw Peninsula), I thought I'd keep the (snow)ball rolling by diving into a list of some of the chilliest places on Earth that people call home.
After consulting multiple lists across the Internets, I came up with seven such places from around the world that fit the bill. As being regularly/permanently inhabited by civilians was the main criterion, research stations in Antarctica, sites of historic expeditions in Greenland, and places like the Canadian village of Snag, Yukon, which showed up on a few lists but which hasn't had a population since prior to 2006, were excluded.
In no particular order, here are seven of the coldest places in the world:
1. Hell (Norway)
We begin in Hell, because... why not? This village of about 1,400 people in Norway's fourth-least populated county — Nord-Trøndelag — has suffered many an English-speaking tourist thinking up some witticism about "hell freezing over" but actually comes in as one of the warmer places on this list.
According to World Weather Online, average temperatures in what appears to be the village's coldest month (January) range in the mid- to upper-20s (in degrees Fahrenheit), though the Wikipedias claim the mercury can fall as far as -13 degrees during the winter. Relatively speaking, this place is like Florida compared to the locales listed below. But it's Hell, man — we had to include that one!
2. Verkhoyansk (Russia)
Everywhere I looked while trying to find places for this list — including the Mother Nature Network, Condé Nast Traveler, and Science Focus — almost inevitably led to me reading a blurb about Verkhoyansk. Located in Russia's Sakha Republic (see: Siberia), Verkhoyansk is kind of a fun word to type, not to mention home to a population of around 1,300 and the world's greatest temperature range.
It is noted in world records maintained by Guinness — you may have heard of them — that temperatures in Verkhoyansk have ranged from -90 to 98 degrees Fahrenheit, a massive 188-degree spectrum. Average temperatures in the winter months, however, are hard-pressed to broach -20 degrees. No wonder Joseph Stalin and Russia's czars before him sent political exiles out here.
3. Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia)
Welcome to Ulaanbaatar, the coldest capital city in the world! About 1.3 million people, or nearly half the population of Mongolia, live in the capital and largest city, which sits in the northern central part of this precariously-shaped country above China. Data from the World Meteorological Institute neatly summarized in this post from The Mongolist shows that Ulaanbaatar beats out other national capitals like Reykjavik (Iceland), Astana (Kazakhstan), and Helsinki (Finland) for the title of "coldest capital" by virtue of registering an annual average temperature of -2.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
Ulaanbaatar's high elevation (4,300 feet above sea level), relatively high latitude (nearly 48 degrees north of the equator), and landlocked-ness combine with the effects of the Siberian Anticyclone, a massive collection of cold dry air that accumulates in the northeastern part of Eurasia during the winter, to keep things chilly on the regular.
4. Yellowknife (Canada)
The Great White North — or Canada, in layman's terms — had to be mentioned somewhere on this list, right? Well here it is: Yellowknife, the capital and only city in the Northwest Territories, home to some 19,000 people, was given the title of the coldest city in Canada in 2014 (though it should be noted that Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut, was not included).
The city sits 320 miles south of the Arctic Circle, according to AccuWeather, and sees temperatures during January drop as low as -26 degrees Fahrenheit, while the coldest temperature on record is -60 degrees, which came on Feb. 1, 1947. Oddly enough, Yellowknife also happens to have some of the sunniest springs and summers in Canada, seeing nearly 100 more hours of sunshine than Winnipeg, the second coldest city in the country, according to CBC News.
5. Siorapaluk (Greenland)
Eismitte, site of an Arctic expedition in 1930-31, and North Ice, a former British research station, may not have made this list, but I wanted to throw Greenland in here somewhere and the settlement of Siorapaluk does make the cut. I did not find this tiny community mentioned anywhere on the lists of the Earth's coldest places; rather, I pulled up trusty ole Google Maps, searched for the northernmost inhabited settlement in Greenland, and voila.
Siorapaluk is home to 68 people as of the 2010 census — most of them direct descendants of the last migration of Inuit from Canada in the 20th century, according to the Wikipedias. Weatherbase reports the average temperature for the year at 6.1 degrees Fahrenheit, but World Weather Online shows that the settlement experienced a low of -30 degrees Celsius (-22 degrees Fahrenheit) in February 2015.
6. Utqiagvik (USA)
Formerly known as Barrow, Utqiagvik, in Alaska's North Slope Borough, is the northernmost city in the United States and also one of my longest-standing bucket list destinations. Way up there, kissing the Arctic Ocean, Utqiagvik sits within the region of Alaska north of the Arctic Circle. Around 4,300 people call the city home, a healthy 60 percent of those individuals being Alaskan natives.
Weather-wise, you're looking at an average annual temperature of about 11.8 degrees Fahrenheit, with your average high cropping up in July at 40.9 degrees and your average low appearing in February at -14.2 degrees, according to Weatherbase. Believe it or not, October is the month that Utqiagvik typically sees the heaviest snowfall, so the Wikipedias say.
7. Oymyakon (Russia)
Oymyakon is another Siberian destination that sits just under 400 miles from Verkhoyansk; the two are perpetual competitors for the title of coldest place in the Northern Hemisphere. This community of 500-some people hit its own record low of -89.9 degrees Fahrenheit back in early February 1933. This article from The Age (whatever that is) claims that classes are in session for Oymyakon's schools unless the temperature dips below -52 degrees.
Here, in this subarctic climate, the ground is permanently frozen, and June and July are the only months out of the year when the temperature has never dropped below 14 degrees Fahrenheit. "Oymyakon's tourism board has promoted the town as a perfect destination for adventure travelers hungry for a taste of the extreme," says Mother Nature Network.
BONUS: It gets pretty cold in Svalbard, Norway, too. Read a little something about that — and some other far-flung destinations from around the world — in this post from June.