Earth's poles are the coldest places on the planet, with the South Pole outpacing the North Pole in terms of bone-chilling weather. The lowest temperature ever recorded was in Antarctica, about 700 miles (1,127 kilometers) from the South Pole. The reason why it's colder in the Antarctic than the Arctic is because it's dry and mountainous. Two of the coldest places in the Northern Hemisphere are populated, and they aren't very close to the North Pole.
The Climate in Anarctica
There may be colder places in the Antarctic than at Vostok research station, but no one is there to record them. Russian researchers at Vostok, on the other hand, have been keeping track of daily temperatures since 1958. On July 21, 1983, they recorded a temperature of minus 89.2 degrees Celsius (minus 128.6 degrees Fahrenheit), which is the coldest temperature ever recorded on Earth. The average low temperature at Vostok in August, which is the middle of winter, is minus 71.6 degrees Celsius (minus 96.9 degrees Fahrenheit). Vostok receives only 2.08 centimeters (0.819 inches) of rain every year.
Factors Influencing Antarctica's Temperature
Only two places on Earth are drier than Antarctica, which has an average rainfall of only 10 millimeters (0.4 inches). The lack of moisture in the air contributes to the cold temperatures because there is nothing to prevent sunlight from reflecting off the snow-covered terrain and radiating into space. It is therefore unavailable to heat the atmosphere. Another factor that contributes to Antarctica's climate is the terrain itself. Vostok is located at an elevation of 3,488 meters (11,444 feet). Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, which has recorded a low of minus 82.8 degrees Celsius (minus 117 degrees Fahrenheit), is at an elevation of 2,835 meters (9,301 feet).
Siberian Cold Spots
The coldest places in the Arctic are in Siberia. The towns of Oymyakon and Verkoyansk, which straddle the Arctic Circle, have recorded the lowest temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere. Oymyakon recorded a low of minus 67.7 degrees Celsius (minus 89.9 degrees Fahrenheit), which is one-tenth of a degree Celsius colder than the coldest temperature at Verkoyansk. Both places are populated and have average midwinter temperatures that fall below minus 60 degrees Celsius (minus 76 degrees Fahrenheit). Summer temperatures in Verkoyansk can reach 37.3 degrees Celsius (99.1 degrees Fahrenheit), giving it the record for the widest temperature spread of any location on Earth.
Why the Poles Are Cold
The main reason why each pole has such a frigid climate is that the sun's rays shine on them obliquely, especially in winter. Because of the oblique angle of the sun with respect to each pole, sunlight has to pass through a thicker layer of atmosphere to reach that ground than it does at the equator, and more sunlight is absorbed. Each pole has a chance to warm up in summer, when the tilt of Earth's axis gives it more exposure to the sun.
About the Author
Chris Deziel holds a Bachelor's degree in physics and a Master's degree in Humanities, He has taught science, math and English at the university level, both in his native Canada and in Japan. He began writing online in 2010, offering information in scientific, cultural and practical topics. His writing covers science, math and home improvement and design, as well as religion and the oriental healing arts.