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02/19/2013

World's coldest village has a challenger

Yakutsk
A man walks through a courtyard in Yakutsk, in the Republic of Sakha, northeast Russia, Feb. 3. (Maxim Shemetov//Reuters)

Oymyakon is a little village deep in the heart of Siberia, about 9,000 kilometres from Moscow. It is believed to be the coldest habitable place in the world with temperatures remain under -50 degree Celcius in the months of December, January and February.  

But it was the coldest in 1933 when temperature was recorded at -67.7 degrees C.

It’s Oymyakon’s 500-odd residents’ claim to fame.  

Now, Verkhoyansk, another village about a 1,000 kilometres north says it should get that title — of being the coldest habitable place in the world because it recorded -67.8 C in 1885.

It has a population of about 1,200.

But a Russian ethnographer told the BBC that it was an inaccurate reading and not recognized by science.

So who is the coldest of all? It’s up in the air.

But what makes Oymyakon so cold? It lies between two mountain ranges, which trap cold air in between throughout the year. The village has been the subject of multiple documentaries and shows, including PBS’ Savage Skies in 1996 and in World’s Most Dangerous Roads, a TV series.

Meanwhile in Oymyakon, it will be -42 degree C on Wednesday.

In Verkhoyansk, it will be -41 degree C.

Oymyakon 1
A man takes a drink in his truck in the village of Ytyk-Kyuyol in the Republic of Sakha, northeast Russia Jan. 19. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

Dog

A dog lies on wood shavings in the village of Tomtor in the Oymyakon valley in the Republic of Sakha.(Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

Lumberjacks Lumberjacks

Lumberjacks Alexey Egorov, 45, and Semion Vinokurov, 53, cut down a tree in the forest outside the village of Tomtor in the Oymyakon valley. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

Gubin

Alexander Gubin, 43, prepares to dive into the frozen Labynkyr lake, some 100 km south from Oymyakon. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters) 

Sakha

A girl poses for a picture in the village of Oymyakon. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)


Raveena Aulakh is the Toronto Star's environment reporter. She is intrigued by climate change and its impact, now and long-term. Follow her on Twitter @raveenaaulakh 

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