Winter is now in full swing in the Northern Hemisphere, and while it might be cold where you live, the record for the coldest places on Earth goes to Antarctica, Greenland and Siberia.
The lowest surface air temperature ever observed on Earth was recorded at the Vostok research station in Antarctica on July 21, 1983. On that date, temperatures dropped to a frigid -128.6oF (-89.2oC). The Vostok research station was established by Russia in 1958. Vostok is located at an elevation of 11,444 feet (3,488 meters), and it is about 700 miles (1,127 kilometers) from the South Pole.
On December 22, 1991, scientists from the University of Wisconsin measured a record low temperature of -92.9oF (-69.4oC) at the Klinck research station on Greenland’s ice cap. The measurement was made with an automated temperature recorder. The Klinck research station is located within the Arctic Circle at an elevation of 10,187 feet (3,105 meters). Direct observations of temperatures as low as -87.0oF (-66.1oC) were made with a thermometer on January 1, 1954 at a British research station in Northice, Greenland.
Siberia is a region that stretches across northern Asia. On February 6, 1993, a record low temperature of -89.9oF (-67.7oC) was measured in Oymyakon, Russia. Oymyakon is home to a few hundred people. The school in Oymyakon reportedly closes only when temperatures drop to below -61oF (-52oF).
Other extremely cold places do exist on Earth, but temperature records from these places have not been officially validated. For example, a temperature reading of -100oF (-73.8oC) was measured on the slopes of Mount McKinley in Alaska. However, the exact date on which this temperature occurred could not be determined.
The coldest places on Earth tend to be located near the poles. Polar regions do not receive direct sunlight during the winter months due to the tilt in the Earth’s axis. Hence, polar regions can get very cold. Antarctica, the large land mass in the Southern Hemisphere, is the coldest place on Earth. In the Northern Hemisphere, the coldest places tend to be located on land masses farther away from the North Pole because the Arctic Ocean has a warming influence on the region.
Bottom line: Antarctica, Greenland and Siberia are among the coldest places on Earth. The lowest surface air temperature ever observed on Earth was recorded at the Vostok research station in Antarctica on July 21, 1983. On that date, temperatures dropped to a frigid -128.6oF (-89.2oC).
Deanna Conners is an Environmental Scientist who holds a Ph.D. in Toxicology and an M.S. in Environmental Studies. Her interest in toxicology stems from having grown up near the Love Canal Superfund Site in New York. Her current work is to provide high-quality scientific information to the public and decision-makers and to help build cross-disciplinary partnerships that help solve environmental problems. She writes about Earth science and nature conservation for EarthSky.