In the UK it’s practically a national sport to moan about the weather.
It’s always too cold, too wet, too windy – or on the rare occasion – too hot, and there’s always just the wrong number of leaves on the train tracks. For a nation where it rains gently for about 360 days of the year, that’s a lot of complaining in a very short space of time.
In actual fact Brits have very little to complain about. In other parts of the world boiling water freezes in seconds and you can use your car like a kite. These are the most extreme places on earth.
1) The Hottest Place On Earth
Don’t believe this guy, the hottest place on earth is actually much harder to figure out.
For a temperature record to be official it is supposed to be taken 1.5 meters above the ground and shaded from direct sunlight, which is why the temperature is often reported ‘in the shade’.
Using this method, the hottest place in the world is the aptly named Furnace Creek Ranch in Death Valley, California, standing at a sauna like 56.7 °C (134 °F) in 1922.
Still there are plenty of places that are so inaccessible that they don’t have regularly manned weather stations, or even humans for that matter.
To get temperatures in places like this you need some pretty big toys with some pretty big names. We’re talking about stuff like the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, which needs strapped to a NASA satellite so that some really clever folk can measure temperatures from space without burning their eyelids off.
Using satellite readings the earth’s hottest temperature actually stands at a face melting 70.7°C (159.26°F), which was recorded in 2005 in the Lut Desert, Iran. Though if you really want to get picky, measuring the temperature on the ground itself would actually point back to Furnace again, which hit 93.9 °C (201 °F) in 1972, but what’s a few degrees between friends, eh?
2) The Coldest Place On Earth
Bit nippy where you are? Having to wear your extra thick woolly jumper and turn the heating up? Well spare a thought for the poor scientists at Vostok Station in the Antarctic.
In an attempt to turn John Carpenter’s horror epic The Thing into a documentary, the Russian research base was established in 1957 to explore a lake hidden 4km below the ice which has been untouched for 3 million years, in the hopes of discovering how life started on earth and possibly in space too.
Apart from it’s creepy horror movie potential, Vostok is also the coldest place on earth with temperatures averaging −65 °C (−85 °F) in the winter.
This is the sort of place where having a runny nose could strip the skin off your face as it freezes in seconds and you can’t even spit because saliva turns to ice around 0.34 °C.
Oh yeah, and frostbite can kick in anywhere below 0°C and result in awesome party tricks like this:
Thankfully, the scientists only head to Vostok in summer when the temperature is a balmy -42°C (-44°F), which is practically sunbathing weather.
Recently the station’s world record temperature of −89.2 °C (−128.6 °F) has been eclipsed thanks to the wonders of science with a new all time low of 93.2 Celsius (-135.8F) clocked using satellites which must be a wonderful encouragement to the ice cubes, sorry, scientists who already work there.
3) The Wettest Place On Earth
We know what you’re thinking but not even Wales comes close to being the wettest place ever. That honour goes to Mawsynram in India where they get almost 12 meters of rain each year.
This much precipitation means that everything grows like crazy here and the people of Mawsynram can create awesome bridges out of trees:
The locals also wander around doing their best ninja turtle impression, wearing hand woven bamboo body umbrellas called knups in order to stay dry.
So living in the wettest place on earth actually looks like quite good fun, but spare a thought for the people of Barout, Guadaloupe who in 1970 sat through 38mm of rain in just one minute. At that rate you’d be underwater in less than an hour.
4) The World’s Windiest Place
The world’s fastest ever recorded wind speed was a skin-shredding 318 mph during the Bridge Creek–Moore tornado near Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in 1999.
The winds were strong enough to strip bark from trees, scour asphalt from the roads and toss pickup trucks around like they were toys:
This was an F5 tornado, the worst you can get, and in just 85 minutes the winds killed 36 people and did $1 billion of damage.
Tornadoes aside the windiest place in the world is Port Martin, Antarctica, where in 1951 an average windspeed of 107mph was recorded. For a sense of perspective, this is what 96 mph looks like. Just try and imagine it non stop, all day long:
5) The World’s Snowiest Place
Never ending snow might seem like a great idea to most powder hounds, but you can have too much of a good thing…
The snowiest place on earth is Mount Rainier in Washington, which from 1971 to 1972 received 31.5 meters of the white stuff, approximately the height of a 10 storey building. To give you an idea of what that looks like, here’s a tiny 15 meter snow wall in Japan:
All that snow is great for carving but also means there’s a good chance of avalanches like the one in which sadly six climbers disappeared last year.
Despite nature’s unpredictable side, fresh pow is still there to be enjoyed and if you can’t wait for your snow fix then Tamarack California is the place for you as it once received 11.5 meters in just one month, which will make you an awful lot of these guys:
6) The Driest Place On Earth
When you’re feeling thirsty the last thing you want is a 300 mile walk to the nearest bar. But in the Atacama Desert, the driest place on earth, that’s exactly what you’ll get. Imagine that on a hangover.
The Atacama is a 600 mile plateau stretching along the coast of South America. Composed mostly of rocks, salt lakes and lava, it is not moisture’s friend and if you’re there too long your tongue probably feels like this:
It almost never rains in the Atacama, as you’d expect from the driest place on earth. The average rainfall is about 15mm, and the terrain is so alien that NASA is even testing its latest Mars Rovers there.
7) The Lightest/Darkest Place On Earth
Longyearbyen in Norway has the strange privilege of being both the brightest and darkest place on the planet.
As the world’s northernmost settlement, Lonyearbyen is located inside the Arctic Circle, and as a result it enjoys the unusual blessing of polar night, which means that it’s dark there for about 110 days non stop each year.
Thanks to the wonders of astrophysics, the earth is at an angle to the sun as it rotates around it, so areas around the North and South Poles get little if any light for half the year. For Lonbyearbyen this means that from October 27 through to February 14, it’s effectively night time.
Conversely, from April 19 through to August 23, there’s 95 days of midnight sun to look forward to. That’s right, the sun never sets.
Understandably this can drive some people pretty crazy resulting in weird psychological issues like solipsism syndrome, a disorder which is normally only a problem for astronauts.
Still, when’s the last time falling asleep caused you any trouble?