Ojmjakon; The World’s Coldest Village


Ojmjakon (or Oymyakon), in eastern Siberia, is the world’s coldest village. It gets cold here, bloody cold! How cold? Try -71.2 °C, the record set in January 1929! It routinely gets to below -55 °C in winter, with daily maxima sometimes struggling to get above -50 °C! So that’s how cold! But it also gets hot, hotter than Ireland! How so?

ojmjakonWith only 500 inhabitants, Ojmjakon has a population of less than the number of metres it is above sea-level. Located at 750 metres, it is surrounded by mountains to its west, south and east, thus shielded from warmer air from the south. Winter high pressure and clear nights mean the air stagnates there, getting colder and colder throughout the winter. Strong inversions trap smoke particles in the air, adding to the discomfort. Trucks engines are left running overnight, for to turn them off would cause the oil to freeze.

The graph below shows the daily maxima and minima over the past 12 months, from 10 October 2014 to today, 10th October 2015.

The lowest temperature recorded during this period was “only” -55.1 °C just before Christmas last year (yes, they get a white Christmas there every year!). I say “only”, as many years it gets below -60 °C. The coldest daytime maximum of a bone-chilling -51.0 °C fell around the same period. Schools only close when it gets below -52 °C, so if there are any school principals reading, just think about this the next time you close a school for a bit of frost!

Daily maxima and minima for the past 12 months. Image: Author

The daytime temperature first rose above zero on April 19th and continued on into a short summer. Ojmjakon is at around 63  ° North – about the same as Reykjavik – but its continental climate means temperatures do get hot in summer. The highest temperature this year was 31.1 °C on July 1st, several degrees warmer than any place in Ireland this summer! The warmest night was 14 °C, positively balmy for there. The temperature doesn’t stay high for long, however, and it started falling again soon after, hitting zero again on September 27th, by which time the overnight minima were already around -17 °C! That is about as low as it got here in December 2010!

The first snow of the season fell a couple of says ago, at 0000GMT on October 7th, but it melted pretty quickly, as daytime temperatures managed to rise above zero again in the past few days. On average only around 30-40 cm of snow falls in Ojmjakon, and usually earlier in the winter. Later on it gets too cold to snow, as the colder the air the less moisture it can hold. When it gets as low as it does in Ojmjakon then there really is almost no moisture at all in the air to condense out to form snow.

ojmjakon sign

So as Peter is currently preparing to give us his winter forecast for this year, spare a though for the people of Ojmjakon and the Yakutia region in general. No matter how “cold” it gets here, we really have no idea of what real cold means.

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