Created on: January 31, 2013 Last Updated: February 01, 2013
For many, cold winter weather is something that usually does not fall below 30 or -14 degrees Fahrenheit. Some may experience much colder winter weather, with temperatures falling to even -4 to -20 degrees Fahrenheit. Even in such instances, the extra cold weather might not last for more than few days. However, in one habitable place on earth, the normal winter temperatures can reach as low as -60 degrees Fahrenheit. Known to be the
world’s coldest permanently inhabited town, the village of "Oymyakon" is located in Northern Siberia and is home to around 500 residents.
The lowest temperature recorded at Oymyakon
On February 6,1933, Oymyakon broke the world record for the lowest recorded temperature in a habitable place, which was previously held by Prospect Creek in the U.S. The lowest recorded temperature in Oymyakon was -89.8 degrees Fahrenheit and was 10 degrees colder than the previous record. However, according to available data, the lowest temperature recorded on Earth was at the Russian South Pole research station of Vostok in Antarctica, where the temperature was recorded at -128.6 degrees Fahrenheit on July 21, 1983. However, given the fact that the Russian research station is not a permanently inhabited place, the record held by Oymyakon remains to date. Although the officially recorded lowest temperature in Oymyakon was -89.8 degrees, some researchers believe it has endured much colder weather, sometimes as low as -108 degrees Fahrenheit.
Reasons for Oymyakon's extended duration of excessively cold weather
As pointed out by meteorologists, there are several reasons for Oymyakon to experience such cold weather for an extended period of time. One reason is its location in a river valley. This means that the much denser cold air can settle into lower elevations during the night and therefore maintain the temperatures at ground level. Having been surrounded by mountains is another reason for Oymyakon’s extended extreme cold weather and, due to this arrangement, cold air draining down the slopes is trapped in the valley where Oymyakon is located. At the same time, its 63 degrees north latitude limits the duration of sunshine received at Oymyakon to a mere 3 hours per day during the winter, while the persistent snow cover reflects whatever sunlight it receives during this period. As the moisture-starved cold air mass maintains the snow cover without allowing it to melt, the amount of reflected energy throughout the winter remains significantly high.
Adapting to the extreme cold
However, how much harsh the winter weather might be, the inhabitants of Oymyakon have learnt to fight through such extreme cold and continue to engage in their daily activities. In fact, the only school in Oymyakon closes only when the winter weather reaches -60 degrees Fahrenheit, where in most parts of the world, schools will shut down even when the temperatures are far higher. At the same time, the plants have also adapted to extreme living and, according to researchers, by being under the cover of a snow blanket, plants and animals alike can survive in such harsh conditions.
In recent times, the residents of Oymyakon have been warned of more severe winter weather and according to meteorologists, there is a possibility that the area might experience its worst temperatures ever, which may even drop to around -90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Learn more about this author, Dr Pandula Siribaddana.
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