Geography

The coldest places on Earth

Temperatures around the world vary from location to location, from high elevations to sea level and below, and it’s easy to forget that the weather in your neighborhood can be drastically different than temperatures and climates half a world away. Extreme temperatures are par for the course when it comes to life on Earth.

That said, you probably wouldn’t want to stay long in some of the coldest places on the planet. Still, some villages, towns, and cities persist despite frigid temperatures. Here are some of the coldest places on the planet, both inhabited and uninhabited.

Antarctica

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On a high ridge within hollows on the East Antarctic Plateau in Antarctica, temperatures have reached a bone-chilling -133.6 degrees Fahrenheit (-92 degrees Celsius). At least that was the case in 2013 according to NASA.

“Scientists made the discovery while analyzing the most detailed global surface temperature maps to date,” the 2013 article says. “Researchers analyzed 32 years' worth of data from several satellite instruments [and] found temperatures plummeted to record lows dozens of times in clusters of pockets near a high ridge…on the ice sheet known as the East Antarctic Plateau.”

Russia

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Russia has long been notorious for its cold weather and below-freezing temperatures. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that two of the coldest permanently-inhabited places on the planet are located in Russia.

Oymyakon

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A 2010 census reported that approximately 460 people live in the rural locality of Oymyakon, Russia, one of the coldest-yet-still-inhabited villages on Earth. That’s right, people live in Oymyakon. Schools will even stay open unless temperatures dip below a teeth-rattling -52 degrees Fahrenheit (-46.6 degrees Celsius).

In December 2016, Oymyakon’s weather station recorded temperatures of -96 degrees Fahrenheit (-71.1 degrees Celsius).

Verkhoyansk

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The more than 1,000 people living in the remote region of Verkhoyansk, Russia, may call it home, but they always seem to be in contention with Oymyakon for being the most miserable place in the world. That’s almost certainly due to the unbelievably cold temperatures year-round.

It’s been a while since the lowest temperature in Verkhoyansk was recorded (-93.6 degrees Fahrenheit/-69.8 degrees Celsius) in 1892. But it can be hot one day and cold the next, as the saying goes. The town of Verkhoyansk holds the Guinness world record for the greatest temperature range on Earth, with temperatures known to range from -90 degrees to 98 degrees Fahrenheit (-67.7 degrees to 72.2 degrees Celsius).

Canada

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Canada is known for its vast expanses and consistently cold weather, so it’s natural that a tiny village in the Yukon territory makes the list of coldest places on Earth. Snag, Yukon, Canada reached a record-setting low temperature of -81 degrees Fahrenheit (-63 degrees Celsius) in the winter of 1947.  

United States

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Not all of the coldest places on the planet are in remote winter wonderlands. Here are a handful of the coldest places you’ll find in the U.S.

Prospect Creek, Alaska

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Average low temperatures dip below minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit (-51 degrees Celsius) in Prospect Creek, Alaska, but the coldest place in the United States has gotten colder in the past. The tiny outpost in Alaska began as a hub for mining expeditions and evolved into a camp for construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. The region is currently uninhabited other than the occasional attendant manning a pump station in the area, and that’s probably a good thing. Lowest recorded temperatures in Prospect Creek, Alaska reached -78.8 degrees Fahrenheit (-61.5 degrees Celsius) in January 1971.

Rogers Pass, Montana

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Rogers Pass, Montana, holds the record for coldest recorded temperature in the United States outside of Alaska. The pass is only around 5,500 feet above sea level, but on January 20, 1954, temperatures dipped to an icy -69.7 degrees Fahrenheit (-56.5 Celsius).

International Falls, Minnesota & Fraser, Colorado

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Both International Falls, Minnesota, and Fraser, Colorado earned their spot on this list even if they aren’t technically the coldest places in the United States year-round (or even consistently). The reason they’re here is that they’re cold enough for long enough. Both towns have claimed—and even trademarked at one point—the term “Icebox of the Nation.” They came to an agreement in favor or International Falls in 1986, then International Falls let the trademark lapse, and a dispute followed.

Internationals Falls currently has a trademark claim for the “Icebox of the Nation” title, but both towns have an average year-round temperature that borders on freezing.

Cold May Get Colder as Time Passes

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Temperatures will continue to fluctuate towards extremes, both hot and cold, if climate change science is any indication. That means the coldest places on Earth are going to get colder, and cold areas of the globe may get a little more frigid during the winter months. Some of your favorite cold weather winter spots may make the list next year or the year after!