The cold(est) Russian Winter

Today, December 1st, is the first day of Winter in Russia.

The Russian winter is known to be cold, very cold. So much so that the expressions General WinterGeneral Frost, or General Snow refer to the harsh winter climate as a contributing factor to the military failures of several invasions of Russia.

This year, though, it could turn out to be one of the coldest, if not THE coldest, winter on record, at least for a long time.

Before I explain why, let me stress the fact that having such a cold winter does NOT negate global warming. First of all one should not confuse “weather” and “climate” and secondly the global warming effect actually does causes (even if it might sound counterintuitive at first) colder than usual temperatures, in certain places and at certain times, as it exacerbates climate extremes.

A typical Russian winter landscape. Photo by me.

Siberia, in particular, has such unforgiving temperatures that it has never been conquered by a foreign invasion. Nor Napoleon, nor Nazi Germany made it to Siberia from the West, not the Golden Horde in the 1200s or the Japanese in WWII, from the East, reached this far North.

The town of Oymyakon is known as the “Pole of Cold“, or the coldest [place on Earth (in the Northern hemisphere), as on February 6, 1933, a temperature of −67.7 °C (−89.9 °F) was recorded, which is the coldest officially recorded temperature in the Northern Hemisphere. Only Antarctica has recorded lower official temperatures (the lowest being −89.2 °C (−128.6 °F), recorded at Vostok Station on 21 July 1983). In Omyakon there is a monument built around the town square commemorating an even lower (albeit not official) reading in the 1920s of −71.2 °C (−96.2 °F).

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So it is no surprise that in winter time temperatures in this region drop below −50 °C (−58 °F). It is rather unusual, though, for it to happen in the fall, but this is what we witnessed this year.

The town of Verkhoyansk in the Sakha Republic, on the Yana river, saw temperatures approaching −54 °C (−65 °F) already at the end of November. And it wasn’t (by far) the only place in the area to experience such frost.

This is not an all-time record for the month of November – the lowest temperature having been −57.2 °C (−71.0 °F), but is is darn close. The absolute lowest temperature was −67.8 °C (−90.0 °F) recorded in both months of January and February.

The position of Verkhoyansk in Siberia, Russia.

Verkhoyansk is also known for holding the Guinness world record for the greatest temperature range on Earth: 105 °C (189 °F), asin July temperatures have been known to soar as high as 37.3 °C (99.1 °F)!


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