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Temperatures plummet to minus 73 in Siberia

The Russian city of Yakutsk is in the midst of an abnormally long period of harsh subzero temperatures.
Credit: AP Photo/Ajar Warlamov
A man looks at a photographer walking in a street as the temperature dropped to about -50 degrees (-58 degrees Fahrenheit) in Yakutsk, Russia, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021. Temperatures in the remote, diamond-rich Russian region of Yakutia have dropped to -50 degrees Centigrade (-58 degrees Fahrenheit).

If you're someone who's not a fan of cold weather, chances are you won't be taking any trips to the Russian city of Yakutsk anytime soon. The city is currently in the midst of an abnormally long period of harsh subzero cold that is considered unusual even for Siberia's standards.

The temperature in portions of the Yakutia region of eastern Russia, where Yakutsk is located, dropped below minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 40 degrees Celsius) during the middle of December and hasn't climbed above that level since -- making this one of the longest stretches of subzero cold in at least 14 years, according to The Associated Press.

Outside of a brief "warmup" to around minus 24 F (minus 31 C) for the first couple of days of January, the city of Yakutsk, located just south of the Arctic Circle, has recorded both high and low temperatures below minus 30 F (minus 34 C) since Dec. 8, 2020.

Even colder air has settled into Delyankir, a small district located about 500 miles (800 km) to the northeast of Yakutsk. On Monday morning, Jan. 18, a low temperature of minus 73 F (minus 58.3 C) was reported.

Delyankir is near Oymyakon, a rural village which is known as the coldest inhabited place on Earth. According to The Siberian Times, the lowest officially recorded temperature in Oymyakon was minus 89.9 F (minus 67.7 C) in 1933.

In Yakutsk, the city's lowest temperature of this cold stretch was minus 58 F (minus 40 C) on Jan. 14.

Normally, high temperatures remain in the minus 30s F (minus 34 to minus 39 C) from the middle of December through the beginning of February. The normal low temperature is in the negative 40s F (minus 40 to minus 45 C) during this time period.

The extreme winter climate of far northeastern Asia is also referred to as the "Pole of Cold," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jim Andrews.

"The Siberian 'Pole of Cold' is located within the Sakha Republic, or Yakutia, in northeastern Asia," Andrews said. "In winter, it is the coldest inhabited area on Earth -- only the tops of the great Antarctica and Greenland ice sheets are colder."

Residents take precautions by running their cars through the night or using car warmers to keep them from stalling. Students have been excused from classes until it warms up again, according to the AP

AccuWeather meteorologists say temperatures in the minus 40s and minus 50s F (minus 40 to minus 51 C) are expected to continue through at least the end of January.

While living in an area with dangerously low temperatures may seem astounding for many, it's just a way of life for those who call Yakutsk home.

Afanasiy Andreev, who was born and raised in Yakutsk, told the AP that he is used to the cold. Other residents described how they stay warm when spending time outdoors.

"The main rule is not to stand in one place and to keep going and going," area resident Dmitry Kuznetsov told the AP.

However, some residents may have been caught off guard after warm conditions during 2020 when unusually high temperatures were recorded in northern Siberia during the month of September.

This punishing cold is following a warmer-than-normal 2020 across much of Siberia.

A warm start to the year was seen across the region with temperatures from January to April averaging about 11 degrees Fahrenheit (6 degrees Celsius) above normal across Russia.

Summer arrived early in Siberia and set more records when Verkhoyansk, a Siberian town located 3,000 miles east of Moscow, Russia, reached 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius), breaking the record high temperature for the Arctic Circle and Siberia -- and also marking the first time that either region has reached 100 degrees in recorded history.

These unusually hot and dry conditions led to higher-than-average wildfire activity across Russia.

Siberia may be known for its harsh cold, but temperatures have been trending higher over the past several years. As temperatures rise, snow is able to melt more quickly across the region.

Snow cover over an area typically reflects some sunlight back into the atmosphere, keeping temperatures lower during daylight hours. However, if there is little to no snow on the ground, sunlight is absorbed by the ground, and temperatures are able to rise, causing more snow to melt.