Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Watson. Watson Wonders, “Are there any people living in Antarctica?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Watson!
Think of a warm, sandy beach on the shores of a tropical island. You're relaxing in a hammock under the shade of a huge palm tree. The temperature is over 100° F, but the cool breeze off the ocean makes it feel perfect in the shade.
The Earth is a large planet. Some areas experience extreme temperatures. Have you ever wondered where on Earth it gets the coldest?
If you want to go to the coldest place on Earth, just head south…all the way south! The continent of Antarctica can boast that it's the coldest, driest, and windiest continent on Earth. It also happens to have the highest average elevation of any continent.
Approximately 98% of Antarctica is covered in ice that's almost a mile thick. Because it averages only about eight inches of precipitation each year, Antarctica is considered a desert. Did you ever think that a desert could be covered in ice?
The cold temperatures and overall climate of Antarctica make it a difficult place to live. In fact, there are no permanent human residents of Antarctica. Throughout any given year, though, there are usually somewhere between 1,000-5,000 people living on Antarctica in research stations while they conduct scientific experiments.
So how cold does it get in Antarctica? Very cold! The coldest temperature on Earth ever recorded was -128.6° F at the Russian Vostok Station in Antarctica on July 21, 1983. How cold is that? It's about 20° F colder than subliming dry ice!
Throughout the year, Antarctica's temperatures can vary drastically. In winter, temperatures can reach as low as -112° F and below. In the summer near the coast, temperatures can rise as high as almost 60° F.
Despite these low temperatures, a big health issue year-round in Antarctica is sunburn. It's true! The snow and ice reflect almost all of the ultraviolet light that falls on the surface of Antarctica, so sunscreen is a must-have all throughout the year.
If you're wondering where the coldest permanently-inhabited place on Earth is, it's Oymyakon in the Siberia area of Russia. Oymyakon has an annual average temperature of just 3° F. The coldest month — January — boasts an average temperature of -51° F.
Oymyakon, which sits about 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle, is home to over 200,000 people. Schools there only close when the temperature dips below -61° F. Some people leave their vehicles running all day long to make sure they're ready when they need them!