As most of the northern hemisphere is currently huddled under blankets and battling frigid temperatures, it might be hard to imagine any place on earth that could get colder than the subzero temperatures that many populated cities struggle with in the coldest months of the year.
Yet, humans are remarkably adaptable and over the millennia have found ways to make do in some of the most extreme and inhospitable climates on earth. From fiery heat in the Sonoran Desert to extreme cold in Russia, Greenland and Canada, the following are some of the most inhospitable places (as far as temperature is concerned) where people carry on life, and have for centuries. Robust heaters or reliable air conditioners are definitely recommended in these places.
10. Athens, Greece – 118º Fahrenheit
As far as major cities go, the capital and largest city in Greece, Athens, is also one of the hottest cities in the world. Yet, it is one of the world’s oldest cities still in existence and is known for being the birthplace of democracy. Athens’ record hot temperature was a sweltering 48 degrees Celsius (118 Fahrenheit), recorded in 1977. In the 1970s, Athens had a serious smog problem that was not helped by the city’s intense heat. Environmental measures taken throughout the city have since reduced the problem, although the city still experiences bad smog in the hottest days of summer.
9. Catenanuova, Sicily – 119º Fahrenheit
The Mediterranean climate of the island of Sicily means it enjoys mild winters and long, hot, dry summers. It’s those hot summers that make it such an extreme place to live: Sicily can reach scorching hot temperatures, regularly reaching 40 Celsius or 111 degrees Fahrenheit in summer. In Catenanuova in 1999, the mercury hit 48.5 degrees Celsius, or 119 degrees Fahrenheit.
8. Jeddah – 120º Fahrenheit
Another large city in one of the hottest locations on earth, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia is home to a long, hot dry summer and a winter that is warmer than in the rest of the country. In the summer, it regularly goes above 43 degrees Celsius, or 109 Fahrenheit, in Jeddah. It holds a record heat temperature of 49 Celsius, or 120.2 Fahrenheit, recorded in 1961. Civilizations have thrived in this area for millennia, and is said to have been settled in 522 BC as a fishing hamlet.
7. Cordoba, Argentina – 120º Fahrenheit
It’s no surprise that there are extreme temperatures in the desert, but the subtropical city of Cordoba, Argentina has a reasonably mild climate most of the time. Occasionally, however, it experiences intense heat waves. The city, located at the foothills of the Sierra Chicas mountains, is normally moderated by cool winds that blow in from Antarctica. Its thunderstorms sometimes bring intense heat waves when days commonly hit over 100 Fahrenheit (38 celsius). Heat builds up and during this time, record temperatures have reached around 50 degrees celsius, or 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
6. Oodnadatta, South Australia – 123º Fahrenheit
The small town of Oodnadatta, located in South Australia, Australia, is home to cattle ranches and an extensive desert. It has been known to record temperatures up to 50 degrees Celsius (123 degrees Fahrenheit). It rarely receives rainfall, making it also one of the driest places in Australia.
5. Rajasthan, India – 123º Fahrenheit
Rajasthan, located in the northern part of India, is home to the Thar Desert. It is also home to ruins from ancient civilizations, meaning people have inhabited it for a long time despite its extremely hot climate. Anwar, in Rajasthan, holds the record for the hottest temperature ever in India, at 50.6 Celsius or 123 degrees Fahrenheit, recorded in 1956.
4. Sonoran Desert, United States and Mexico – 125.6º Fahrenheit
The Sonoran Desert, which covers the Southwestern U.S. and Northwestern Mexico, is home to extreme heat every summer. One of the region’s hottest days on record was in 1966, when the thermometers in the Sonoran Desert in Mexico hit 125.6 Fahrenheit, or 52 celsius. The desert is home to Native American tribes who have settlements throughout California, Arizona and Mexico.
3. Sulaibiya, Kuwait – 128.5º Fahrenheit
Located on the Persian Gulf, Sulaibiya, Kuwait has the honor of holding the record for the third hottest temperature ever recorded in the world (and the hottest temperature in Asia), at 53.6 Celsius or 128.5 Fahrenheit. Kuwait as a whole is a hot country, situated in the middle of a desert with a dry, hot summer and a short and warm winter with only occasional rain. Even in the shade, the temperature can easily reach 50 degrees Celsius during the summer.
2. Kebili, Tunisia – 131º Fahrenheit
The record holder for the second hottest temperature ever (reliably) recorded on Earth is Kebili, Tunisia (recorded in 1931) at 131 degrees Fahrenheit or 55 degrees Celsius. Located in Southern Tunisia, Kebili is an Oasis and a historic town. Despite its extreme climate, humans have lived there for around 200,000 years.
1. Death Valley, California – 134º Fahrenheit
Death Valley holds the record for the place on earth where the highest temperature was recorded: an astounding 134 degrees Fahrenheit (56.7 Celsius). This sweltering temperature was recorded at Furnace Creek Ranch in Death Valley, California, in 1913. The desert valley is located in the Mojave Desert in California, which is, obviously, the driest and hottest place in North America. Furnace Creek, among other locations in the Valley, regularly experiences extreme temperatures: surrounded by mountains and very little vegetation, the sun’s heat easily reaches the valley and is then trapped inside. About 500 or so people live in the Valley, mostly those who work at the area’s resorts and parks.
9. Norway – -58º Fahrenheit
Another Scandinavian country with frigid polar winter temperatures in the North, the mining town of Røros, Norway, a town with a population around 5,000, has experienced temperatures of -50 Celsius or -58 Fahrenheit. Winters in villages like nearby Karasjok regularly experience -40 degree Celsius weather in winter.
8. Dras, India – -58º Fahrenheit
India is best known as being a warm, tropical country, but located in the Kargil District of India, the town of Dras is an extremely cold place. It has some of the coldest temperatures in the world because of its high elevation, which makes its climate frigid. Average lows in winter are —22 Celsius or -10 Fahrenheit, and a record temperature was once recorded of -50 Celsius, or -58 Fahrenheit.
7. Lapland, Finland – -60.7º Fahrenheit
Lapland is one of the coldest regions in the world. In Kittila, Lapland, a staggeringly cold -51.5 Celsius or -60.7 Fahrenheit was recorded in 1999. Despite this extreme, Kittila is home to outdoor attractions and recreation areas and has a population of over 6,000 people. It is a popular downhill skiing and cross-country skiing destination.
6. Sweden – -62.7º Fahrenheit
Although most of Sweden has a temperate climate, its northern areas has a subarctic climate and high altitudes that contribute to extremely cold temperatures. The coldest temperature ever recorded in Sweden was -62.7 Fahrenheit or -52.6 Celsius in Vuoggatjalme, which despite the extreme temperatures in winter, also happens to be a popular tourist destination.
5. Riverside, Wyoming – -66º Fahrenheit
Riverside is one of the coldest inhabited spots in the continental United States, with a record -66 Fahrenheit (-54.4 Celsius) recorded in 1933. Its population is relatively low, with only around 52 brave inhabitants.
4. Alaska – -80º Fahrenheit
Prospect Creek, Alaska is one of the coldest places in the United States and in the world, holding a record of reaching -62 Celsius or -80 Fahrenheit in 1971. It was established as a settlement for those working on the Alaskan pipeline.
3. Canada – -81º Fahrenheit
Like Russia, Canada extends up to the arctic, so it is no surprise that it has some of the coldest temperatures in the world. As far as records go, that honor goes to the town of Snag, Yukon, which has experienced -63 Celsius or -81 Fahrenheit, recorded in 1947.
2. Greenland – -87º Fahrenheit
Greenland has an arctic climate and temperatures typically do not go above 10 Celsius, or 50 Fahrenheit even in the warmest days of summer. It has fjord regions that can get marginally warmer, but generally it is a cold country year-round. Greenland’s record low was -66.1 Celsius, or -87 Fahrenheit, which was measured in 1954.
1. Russia – Verkhoyansk and Oymyakon – -90º Fahrenheit
Moving into the inhabited places on Earth with the lowest temperatures, Verkhoyansk, Russia, located near the Arctic Circle, is one of the coldest spots on earth, along with Oymyakon, Russia. In 1892, a staggeringly cold -69.8 degrees Celsius, or -93.6 Fahrenheit, was recorded in Verkhoyansk. In Oymyakon, the lowest temperature ever measured was -67.8 Celsius or -90 Fahrenheit. The region is very inhospitable and was mostly settled by those who had been politically exiled in the early 20th century. Even the surrounding wildlife can struggle in the region: in 2012, the town was attacked by a pack of 400 hungry wolves.