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What are the Hottest and Coldest Inhabited Places in the World?

By: Christopher C. Burt, 10:07 PM GMT on May 01, 2013

What are the Hottest and Coldest Inhabited Places in the World?

Most weather-minded people know that Death Valley, California and Vostok, Antarctica have measured the highest and lowest extreme temperatures on earth but what about the warmest and coldest inhabited places so far as average annual temperatures are concerned? Ace temperature detective Maximiliano Herrera has just finished researching this. Here are his findings.

Hottest inhabited place in the world

Although it has been widely reported that Dallol in the Danakil Depression of Ethiopia has the highest average annual temperature on earth with a figure of 34.5°C (94.1°F) the figure was derived from only seven years of data (1960-1966) by a mining company that was prospecting in the depression during those years. Actually, there were many missing months of record during those seven years and the total number of months with complete data was just 58. The location has never been permanently inhabited and there has been little or no weather data for the site since the 1960s. Nevertheless, from a climatological viewpoint the Danakil Depression probably is the hottest place on earth (in terms of average annual temperature). But for inhabited locations it would appear that Mecca (or Makah), Saudi Arabia is the warmest inhabited location on earth. Its average annual temperature is 30.7°C (87.3°F).

Mecca has a population of approximately 2.4 million which swells to 5 or more million during the Islamic Hajj to Islam’s holiest site, the Kaaba. Photo by Adiput.

There are a few other contenders such as Berbera, Somaliland which had an average annual temperature of 29.7°C (85.5°F) for the POR of 1908-1950 but with a fractured record since then, or Djibouti with a 30.0°C (86.0°F) average between 1901-1954, and Massawa, Eritrea also with an 29.7°C (85.5°F). All three sites are located in the sweltering Horn of Africa and it is possible that they are now hotter then they were during those earlier POR’s.

For the southern hemisphere finding the hottest location is a bit trickier. It would appear that Wyndham, West Australia takes the prize with an average annual temperature of 29.4°C (84.9°F). However, its climate record is complicated with three different sites having data records: Wyndham Port (site no longer in use), Wyndham City (where the 29.4°C figure comes from), and Wyndham Aero which is quite a bit cooler than the city site with an average of 28.9°C (84.0°F). In 1946 the town once went for 333 consecutive days above 32°C (90°F).

Wyndham, being a coastal town, has considerable microclimate variability. Blair Trewin of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology states that the Wyndham City site lies in an area that is protected from the cool onshore winds but susceptible to hot air pooling over the town from the interior. Its population is stated as just 669 souls. A view from Bastion Lookout which overlooks the coastline near Wyndham. Photo by Hamilton Stone.

Other sites in the southern hemisphere which may also possibly be the hottest include Surabaya, Indonesia with its relatively new downtown site averaging 28.6°C (83.5°F). Garissa, Kenya has a recent 30-year POR with an average of 28.5°C (83.3°F) and several sites on the Pacific Ocean Islands of Kiribati, Nauru, and Tuvalu average 28.2°C(82.8°F). In South America it would appear that Teresina, Brazil, with an average of 27.4°C (81.3°F) is that continent’s warmest location south of the equator. Since one must always assume a small margin of error in such statistics, it is hard to definitively claim that any one of the above sites are, in fact, the hottest inhabited location in the southern hemisphere.

Coldest inhabited place in the world

It would appear that the small Inuit village of Gris Fiord in Canada’s Nunavut Province, located some 1,150 kl (720 miles) north of the Arctic Circle is the coldest permanently inhabited location on earth with an annual average temperature of -16.5°C (2.3°F). Of course, there are many year-round staffed research stations in Antarctica, Greenland, and Canada that are much colder, but these cannot be considered indigenously inhabited like Gris Fiord.

Gris Fiord has a permanent population of at least 130 rugged individuals. It is one of the most northerly inhabited places in the world. Photographer not identified.

The coldest site in Canada is the research station of Eureka with an average annual temperature of -19.7°C (-3.5°F).

In the southern hemisphere the coldest inhabited location is Esperanza on the very northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. Although originally established as a whaling station and then research base, the town now hosts a school, post office, and a permanent population of around 55. So it may be considered the only ‘real’ town in Antarctica. Its average annual temperature is -5.3°C (22.5°F), not all that bad when compared to Gris Fiord!

The town of Esperanza (also known as Base Esperanza) comprises about 55 structures including a school and post office. It is located at 63° 24’S and 56° 59’ W. Photographer not identified.

The coldest low elevation location in the world is Gill, Antarctica with an average annual temperature of -28.0°C (-18.4°F).

KUDOS:All the above information is researched and graciously provided by Maximiliano Herrera.

Written up by:

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather Temperature

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.