Even in extreme weather conditions, human beings are pretty resourceful creatures.
Thanks to modern technology we are able to inhabit some of the most inhospitable places on earth. However, there are some places on our planet that are simply too cold or just too hot for human habitation. In these conditions, even the hardiest of us would struggle. There is a growing worry that extreme weather on earth is becoming more frequent.
Of course, if this is true, we will have to cope with even more hostile places on our planet. However, the truth remains that the earth is already a planet of extremes. Here are 5 of the worst places for human beings to call home:
The coldest places on earth
When we think of extreme weather, you don’t get much worse than the continent of Antarctica. This huge land mass is actually made up of 98% ice. In addition, Antarctica is credited with achieving the lowest temperature ever recorded on the earth – an ice-watering -135.8°F below freezing (around -93°C).
Just to put this temperature into perspective, our own bodies are around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. If our temperature drops to 95°F a body will experience mild hypothermia. At 91°F, we become disorientated and at 82°F, we will lose consciousness. Death is likely at anything around 70°F.
The typical temperature in winter in Antarctica is around -94°F (-70°C). Only about 1000 people remain on this freezing patch of ice in the harshest of seasons. These are the brave researchers who hole up in one of the Antarctic research stations.
Ted Scambos is an ice researcher for the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado:
“I’ve never been in conditions that cold, and I hope I never am. I am told that every breath is painful, and you have to be extremely careful not to freeze part of your throat or lungs when inhaling.”
2. Oymyakon, Yakutsk, Russia
The thing about Antarctica is that few people live there. And certainly not permanently. If you want to know where the toughest living conditions are, you need to head up to the Arctic Circle. Go to the village of Oymyakon in Russia’s Yakutia region.
This freezing place once held the record for the lowest temperature on earth at -98°F (-72°C) recorded in 2013. The village is home to some 500 people. It started off as a settlement for reindeer herders to rest and water their animals at a nearby thermal spring.
Residents here have to adapt to the harsh living conditions where the winter days are just 3 hours long. Cars have to be kept running overnight otherwise the batteries will freeze. And food consists of frozen or raw fish.
The locals are surprisingly healthy and many live to over 100. It might have something to do with clean air and healthy food. Visitors to the region have a tougher time, however.
Photographer Amos Chapple lived in the area for just 5 weeks but described the environment as ‘exhausting’ to live in.
“I remember feeling like the cold was physically gripping my legs. The other surprise was that occasionally my saliva would freeze into needles that would prick my lips.”
The hottest places on earth
3. Death Valley, California, USA
From the coldest place on earth to the hottest now. This isolated valley in California can reach temperatures up to 120°F (49°C) in the summer. It is also the driest place on earth, with an average rainfall of just 2 inches per year. Death Valley holds the record for the hottest temperature ever recorded at a blistering 134°F (56.7°C) in the summer months of 1913. Average temperatures are around 47°F.
The reason Death Valley experiences such extreme weather is because of its location. The valley is long, deep and narrow but is surrounded by tall mountains. This affects the air trapped in the valley. The bright sun warms the sand which then radiates heat back to the steep rocks.
The hot air rises but is trapped by the tall mountains. When it reaches the top it does cool very slightly and then begins to drop again. As these pockets of cooler air descend the hotter air below them compresses these pockets. This makes them heat up even more.
These super-heated masses of air then roll along the valley and help to create the extreme weather conditions. This process continues over and over again, causing the searing temperatures to rise.
4. The Sahara Desert
Our second hottest place is the Sahara Desert. Temperatures here easily reach 122°F (50°C) on a daily basis in the summer months. However, it is the dryness of this desert that makes it so hot. The Sahara Desert gets less than 3 inches of rain every year.
As the sun shines on deserts it heats up the ground. If there were any moisture such as rainfall in the ground, most of it would then evaporate. Because it takes heat to cause evaporation, the ground would then cool. You need this ‘heat energy’ to change liquid to steam or vapour. This is why we feel cooler when we sweat.
However, this desert does not stay hot throughout the night. The reason for this is that dry ground cannot retain as much heat as wet ground. Also, as there is no water vapour in the air to keep the heat in, it quickly dissipates throughout the night.
There’s not much in the way of life in the Sahara Desert. In fact, animals and plants have had to adapt pretty drastically to survive. Many plants have smaller leaves to ensure less water loss. They have very long roots so that they take advantage of the greatest surface area in the search for water.
In addition, many have a waxy skin with the capability of retaining water. Not to mention, the Sahara Desert only has two seasons – summer and winter. Summer months temperatures stick at around 95 – 104°F (35-40°C) with winter a positively balmy and 68 – 86°F (20-30°C).
5. The Australian Outback
Don’t get lost in the Australian Outback, you’ll never survive. Is what most of us assume is the case with our third hottest place on earth. The Australian Outback is not a designated area as such. It is simply the middle of Australia and known as ‘the bush’ where there is no urbanization.
Alice Springs is the unofficial capital of the outback. It is also home to Uluru (formerly Ayers Rock). There is one main road through the outback, called the Stuart Highway. This road is 3000km long and connects Darwin in the north to Adelaide in the south. Either side is dry, hot deserts.
Visitors to this area are advised to carry many spare parts and food and water, should they break down. This is partly due to the unrelenting hot temperatures, averaging 113°F (45°C), but also the number of venomous creatures. This area is home to the most deadly snake on the whole planet – the Inland Taipan.
Although around 60,000 people (less than 10% of Australia’s population) live in the outback, there’s no schools or doctors. Instead, lessons are broadcast via a satellite. As for doctors, emergency medical care is delivered by planes courtesy of the Flying Doctors.
So, do you think you could live in any of the above places? Extreme weather certainly does make a difference when it comes to our habitat and living conditions. But human beings are survivors and conquerors. We don’t let a little bit of freezing or boiling weather stop us.
By Janey D.