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Breaking the Mercury: Hottest and Coldest Places on Earth

From deserts to ice sheets, the temperature rises and drops as we journey through the hottest and coldest places on Earth.

Published April 10, 2016 | Featured in

Country: Russia

Country: Canada

Country: Greenland

Country: Iran

Country: Norway

Country: Switzerland

Country: United States Of America

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Words by Lauren Owens

Aerial viuew of Dasht-e-Lut which translates to Emptiness Desert in Iran
Dasht-e-Lut, Iran

Translating to ‘Emptiness Desert’, Dasht-e-Lut lives up to its name. The desert is 51,800 square kilometres of salt flats, plateaus of dark lava, and sand dunes up to 300 metres high. It’s so desolate and devoid of life, there aren’t even permanent temperature monitors here. However, it has been recorded as reaching readings of up to 70 degrees Celsius.

A view of Denali, the tallest mountain in North America and surrounding mountain range.
Denali, Alaska

This National Park in south-central Alaska is home to the tallest mountain in North America, from which the park gets its name. The mountain is so tall at 6190 metres that it has its own weather system, along with more than 600 earthquakes a year thanks to the fault line running below. Temperatures here have fallen as low as -73 degrees Celsius.

Railway station in Hell, Norway
Hell, Norway

Insert obligatory ‘freezing over’ joke here: on average, this small village of 1500 people is frosty for a third of the year. Despite this, it does quite well in tourism — and surprisingly, the name wasn’t a marketing ploy. It stems from the Old Norse hellir, meaning ‘overhang’ or ‘cliff cave’, while in modern Norwegian it means ‘luck’. In winter, temperatures sit around -13 degrees Celsius, but have been known to drop to -25.

The frosty landscape of the Yukon
Yukon, Canada

The Yukon is known for outdoor pursuits such as dog-sledding, canoeing, salmon fishing and viewing the Northern Lights. On the other hand, it also gets so cold here that metal can freeze and snap. The territory’s record low occurred when a chill from Siberia blew in, causing a drop at Snag to −63 degrees Celsius. Reportedly, the cold, dense air allowed sound to travel clearly kilometres away.

CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Geneva
CERN, Geneva

In 2012, scientists obliterated the previous record for the hottest man-made temperature. It previously sat at 4 trillion degrees Celsius, but when researchers recreated the conditions of the Big Bang within CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, they momentarily created a temperature of 5.5 trillion degrees. To put that into perspective, the centre of the sun tops out at a paltry 15 million.

A team of huskies pulling two people on a dogsled through snowy Greenland
North Ice, Greenland

In 1952, the British North Greenland Expedition was sent to the barren ice of Greenland for scientific exploration and training in an Arctic environment. Over 2 years, more than 30 men travelled there — including one who didn’t make it home. Known as the fifth-coldest place in the world, the explorers braved it through 16 days straight at temperatures ranging from -59.4 degrees Celsius to a low of -66.1.

A view of the craggy landscape of Death Valley, USA
Death Valley, USA

In spite of its name, this National Park supports an abundance of life across its 3000 square kilometres. Death Valley’s wildlife includes red-tailed hawks, wild burros, the highly-poisonous sidewinder rattlesnake and over 1000 plant species. Native American Indians settled here more than 9000 years ago, but today the park’s 250 locals mostly work as rangers or in the local resort. During a 5-day heat wave in 1913, temperatures maxed out at 56 degrees Celsius.

Two men by a van in a snowy forest in Oymyakon which is the coldest inhabited place
Oymyakon, Russia

This frosty village in a remote corner of Siberia is the coldest inhabited place on Earth. Its 500 residents work as reindeer-breeders, hunters and ice-fishermen — so a hearty meal here could include reindeer meat, raw flesh shaved from frozen fish and ice tubes of horse blood with macaroni. In 1924, the village recorded a low of -71.2 degrees Celsius. However, in summer, bones are warmed when temperatures hit a much more civilised 30 degrees.

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