Wednesday 20 February 2019

Thermometer in world’s coldest village breaks as temperatures plunge to near record -62C


Mike Wright

The thermometer in a remote Siberian village known as the coldest inhabited place on earth has broken as temperatures plunged to near-record depths.

The public device, which was installed in Oymyakon as a tourist attraction, recorded -62C, before malfunctioning this week.

Meanwhile the Siberian Times reports that some locals had readings as low as -67C - in touching distance of the record -67.7C, which was logged in the village in February 1933.

That temperature was the lowest ever recorded outside the Antarctic and cemented the village, in the Yakutia region, the coldest permanently-inhabited place on earth.

Yet it is still some way off the coldest temperature ever recorded on the planet, which was -94.7C captured by a NASA satellite in east Antarctica in 2013.

Oymyakon has 50 permanent residents and its name means “non-freezing water” due to a nearby thermal spring.

The settlement originally developed as a stopover for reindeer herders who came to water their animals at the spring.

The village’s hardy inhabitants survive the winters, which drop to an average of -50C in January and February, largely by burning wood and coal for warmth.

The village sits 750 meters above sea level and the length of its days vary from three hours in December to 21 hours in summer.

Oymyakon is served by just the one shop and its solitary school only shuts if temperatures dip below -52C.

In 2016, adventurer and photographer, Amos Chapple, spent five winter weeks working in the Yakutia region and described its living environment as “exhausting”.

He said: “I remember feeling like the cold was physically gripping my legs. The other surprise was that occasionally my saliva would freeze into needles that would prick my lips.

“Breath-mist was as think as cigar smoke and so I had to hold my breath when taking a picture.

“The only people outside were either dashing between houses with their mitts clasped to their faces, or were drunk and looking for trouble”.

As temperatures dropped below -60C this week, Yakutian journalist Elena Pototskaya posted an Instagram video of a band of Chinese tourists taking a dip in Oymyakon's thermal stream.

Her caption read: “Today at the Pole of Cold in Oymyakon - in 65-degree frost - Chinese tourists swim in ice-free spring.

“This does not freeze even in severe frosts in Oymyakon. Horror! Us locals, are afraid to go out in such a cold. And here, the tourists are swimming.”

In the nearby city of Yakutsk, 24-year-old wedding shop worker, Anastasia Gruzdeva, captured a striking picture of her and two friends with their eyelashes frozen by the subzero conditions.

The near-record freezing temperatures in Siberia come as Russia is experiencing what is set to be its darkest winter on record.

The capital Moscow enjoyed just six minutes of sunshine in Decemeber, according to Russia's main weather centre. Normally the city would expect to see dozens of hours of sun during the last month of the year.

The unusually overcast weather means last month Muscovites endured the darkest December since 2000, when the sun broke through the clouds for just three hours.

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