Pole of Cold
In the Northern hemisphere, there are two places in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Siberia, Russia that vie for the honour of being considered the "Pole of Cold". These are Verkhoyansk (located at ) and Oymyakon (located at ).
In December 1868 and then in February 1869 I. A. Khudyakov made the discovery of the Northern Pole of Cold by measuring a record temperature of −63.2 °C (−81.8 °F) in Verkhoyansk. Later, on January 15, 1885 a temperature of −67.8 °C (−90.0 °F) was registered there by S. F. Kovalik, which became the new world record, and still holds the record for the northern hemisphere. This measurement was published in the Annals of the General Physical Observatory in 1892; however, by mistake was written as −69.8 °C (−93.6 °F), which was later corrected. One can still find this incorrect value in some literature.
On February 6, 1933, an absolute minimum of −67.7 °C (−89.9 °F) was registered in Oymyakon.
However, the conventional practice is to round the measurement to the nearest degree Celsius. In this convention, the two places share the world record of −68 °C (−90 °F). On the other hand, it is not correct to compare the data measured in different years with different equipment and different uncertainties. A more correct procedure is to compare average temperatures over large periods of time. On the average, the temperature at Oymyakon appeared to be lower than at Verkhoyansk during 70 years of simultaneous observations.
Other possible candidates are:
- The isolated settlement of Tomtor, also in Sakha, which holds the record of low temperature among the places with permanent residents.
- Mount Logan in Canada which recorded a temperature of −77.5 °C (−107.5 °F) in May 1991. This is quite controversial as it is at a very high altitude at nearly 6000 m.
- Old Crow, Yukon in Canada which recorded a temperature of −66 °C (−86.8 °F) in January 1935.
In the Southern hemisphere, the Pole of Cold is currently located in Antarctica, at the Russian (formerly Soviet) Antarctic station Vostok at . On July 21, 1983, this station recorded a temperature of −89.2 °C (−128.6 °F). This is the lowest temperature ever recorded on Earth. Vostok station's location at the elevation of 3,488 metres (11,444 ft) above sea level, far removed from moderating influence of oceans (more than 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) from the nearest sea coast), and high latitude that results in almost 3 months of civil polar night every year (early May to end of July), all combine to produce a remarkably inhospitable environment, where temperatures rarely rise above −25 °C (−13 °F) during summer and frequently fall below −70 °C (−94 °F) in winter. By comparison, the South Pole, due to its lower elevation, is, on average, 5 to 10 °C (9 to 18 °F) warmer than Vostok, and the lowest temperature ever recorded at the South Pole is "only" −82.8 °C (−117.0 °F).
It is generally thought that Vostok is not the coldest place in Antarctica, and there are locations (notably, Dome A) that are modestly colder on average. However, Antarctica is very sparsely populated; prior to 1995, Vostok was the only research station on the Antarctic Plateau above the elevation of 3,000 metres (9,800 ft), with no other stations for several hundreds of kilometers in any direction. Temperatures below −89.2 °C (−128.6 °F), if they did occur elsewhere, wouldn't have been recorded simply because there was no one around to record them. The automatic weather station at the aforementioned Dome A was only installed in 2005, which has recorded −82.5 °C (−116.5 °F) as the coldest so far (2010).
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