Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A cold day in US history

January 23, 1971: Today marks the 37th anniversary of the official US record low temperature of -80º F (-62.4º C) recorded at Prospect Creek Camp, Alaska.

The 37 year old US record low temperature was captured by a weather observer at the Alaska pipeline construction camp near the confluence of Prospect Creek and the Jim River. The camp has long been dismantled and all that remains is a large gravel pad surrounded by the encroaching boreal forest.

Prospect Creek Camp was located at the bottom of the valley in the distance. This is the winter road to Bettles and the camp was situated near the start of the road.

Snag, Yukon Territory, Canada: -81º F (-62.8º C) - This abandoned airstrip near the Alaska border is the site where the all-time record low temperature for North America was recorded on February 3, 1947. The airstrip was built as part of the Lend-Lease program where US pilots ferried planes to the Soviet Union and other allied nations. Check out Ned's Alaska Science Forum article about Snag, the coldest place in North America.

Oimyakon, Russia: -96ºF (-71.2º C) - This small village in northeastern Siberia holds the record for the coldest temperature in the northern hemisphere. The bone chilling record low occurred on January 26, 1926. There is ongoing debate about this record though since it was apparently obtained by extrapolation because the thermometer didn't read that low. Oimyakon is regarded as the coldest permanently inhabited place on the planet. In January 2004 I visited Valeri, the official weather observer in the village. He is certainly acclimated to the -58ºF temperature as he casually poses with his coat unbuttoned.

The -96ºF recorded at Oimyakon is debatable--but officially, Oimyakon did bottom out at -90º F (-67.7º C) on February 6, 1933. At the weather office in Yakutsk I was blessed with the opportunity to fondle the original handwritten form scribbled on by the observer in 1933. This temperature was actually recorded at the Tomtor airport about 30km away. The village is down the valley and presumably experiences slightly colder temperatures than Tomtor. So the debate over the actual record low will forever continue. Interestingly, the Tomtor airport was another stop for planes along the Lend-Lease route, similar to Snag, Yukon Terr.

Vostok Station, Antarctica: -129º F (-89.4º) - And the coldest temperature ever recorded was measured at the Russian research station located high on the Antarctic plateau on July 21, 1983. (Nope...I didn't take this shot...but maybe some day I will visit Vostok station).


Sharonator said...

Brrr nice and cold now Ed. Have you been out skiing in Goldstream Valley?

ned rozell said...

You should have been born at the pipeline camp at Prospect Creek, Ed. It would have explained a lot.

Hope you had a good one and you have the best blog in Alaska.


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