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If you live on the US East Coast, you have probably already enjoyed several “snow days” due to this year’s extreme winter weather. Unfortunately, children in the remote Oymyakon village in Siberia, Russia are not as lucky. They do after all reside in the “coldest inhabited place on Earth,” where the town's sole school closes only when temperatures drop below -61.6 degrees Fahrenheit (-52 degrees Celsius).
However, on Tuesday, January 16, near record-low temperatures forced lawmakers of the rural community of 500 residents to announce a rare snow day. While the official declared temperature was -74.2 degrees F (-59 degrees C), Oymyakon’s recently installed digital thermometer recorded an even chillier -79.6 degrees F (-62 degrees C) – so cold that the thermometer broke promptly after registering the temperature. Reports from residents indicated an even lower -88 degrees F (-66.7 degrees C), just a hair’s breadth away from the record-breaking -89.9 degrees F (-67.7 degrees C) experienced in February 1933.
While Oymyakon holds the record for the world’s coldest permanently inhabited settlement, it is not the coldest place on Earth. That title belongs to Antarctica, which, based on NASA’s satellite data, dipped to -138.46 degrees F (-94.7 degrees C) in 2013!
Though just reading about these extreme temperatures is enough to send most of us scampering for warmth, the area’s residents take it in stride. In the nearby city of Yakutsk, which recorded a slightly “balmier” -58 degrees F (-50 degrees C), 24-year-old Anastasia Gruzdeva declared the weather, which froze her eyebrows and eyelashes, to be “kind of hot.” However, even the locals seemed to be in awe of a group of Chinese tourists frolicking in the ice-free waters of the local thermal spring.
Though the recent weather was severe even for the “northern pole of the cold,” Oymyakon experiences below freezing temperatures almost eight months of the year — from late September to mid-May. If that is not bad enough, during the peak winter months of December, January, and February, the area is often shrouded in darkness for 21 hours a day! However, the hardy souls that live in Oymyakon and the surrounding areas do not seem to mind. They are so accustomed to the cold that even their winter diet, which comprises fish, reindeer meat, and horse liver, is often consumed frozen! Brrr!