Skip to main content

11 extreme weather records

By Hiufu Wong, CNN
January 10, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
The coldest place inhabited by humans is the Siberian village of Oymyakon, Russia. In 1933, the temperature plunged to -68 C. The coldest place inhabited by humans is the Siberian village of Oymyakon, Russia. In 1933, the temperature plunged to -68 C.
HIDE CAPTION
Extreme weather records
Lowest temperature recorded
Coldest road
Highest temperature
Largest desert
Largest non-polar ice field
Longest recorded dry period
Greatest rainfall in 24 hours
Greatest rainfall in one minute
Heaviest hailstone
Highest cold water geyser
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The temperatures from the polar vortex are far from being the coldest on Earth
  • The U.S. holds two records -- the greatest rainfall in a minute and the highest temperature
  • The Kolyma Highway (M56) in Russia is the coldest road on Earth

(CNN) -- An escaped jail inmate turned himself in just so that he could warm up -- that's how cold the U.S. has been this week.

With the country swept with unforgiving weather since December due to a distorted polar vortex, Brimson in Minnesota plunged to -40 Celcius (-40 Fahrenheit: this is the point at which the temperature scales meet) on Wednesday while Chicago saw its record low of -27 C (-16.6 F) on Monday.

As dangerously cold as it seems to be, however, it's (fortunately) still a long way from beating the world's lowest temperature record.

"Everybody is interested in extremes -- the hottest, the wettest, the windiest -- so creating a database of professionally verified records is useful in that fact alone," says Randall Cerveny from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

With that in mind, what other extreme weather records are there? Cerveny helped us pick out a few highlights from around the world.

MORE: Frigid air from the North Pole: What's this polar vortex?

Lowest temperature

According to WMO, the lowest temperature noted was -89.2 C, recorded on July 21, 1983, in Vostok, Antarctica. Yes, Celsius, not Fahrenheit. In the latter, that's minus 128.5 degrees.

An absence of solar radiation, clear skies, little vertical mixing, calm air for a long duration and high elevation (3,420 meters, 11,220 feet) accounted for the frigid weather.

Highest temperature

With an average high of 46.7 C (116 F) in July, summer in Death Valley, California, can be baking.

But it was the summer of 1913 that entered the record books, acknowledged officially as the hottest temperature ever recorded at 56.7 C (134 F) in recent years, according to WMO.

Swimming goggles recommended.
Swimming goggles recommended.

Greatest rainfall in one minute, Unionville

This record is owned by Unionville, Maryland, where on July 4, 1956, 1.22 inches (31.2 millimeters) of rain fell in one minute.

To give you an idea -- in sub-tropical Hong Kong, the most severe black rainstorm signal will be hoisted if the rainfall exceeds 70 millimeters (2.75 inches) in an hour.

Greatest rainfall in 24 hours

The biggest rainfall in a day occurred with the passage of Cyclone Denise in Foc-Foc, La Réunion, an island in the southern Indian Ocean. Some 1.825 meters (71.8 inches) of rain fell over 24 hours, from January 7 to 8, 1966.

MORE: World's 10 toughest endurance challenges

Heaviest hailstone, Bangladesh

The heaviest hailstone was discovered during a hailstorm in Gopalganj, Bangladesh on April 14, 1986. The storm killed 92 people and included one hailstone that weighed 1.02 kilos (2.25 pounds).

Longest recorded dry period, Arica

The longest dry period in history was measured in years. There was not a single raindrop in Arica, Chile, for more than 14 years, from October 1903 to January 1918 -- a total of 173 months.

The Old Faithful geyser, with an average eruption height of 44 meters, is 20 meters short of Geysir Andernach.
The Old Faithful geyser, with an average eruption height of 44 meters, is 20 meters short of Geysir Andernach.

Highest cold water geyser

Located in Andernach, Germany, Geysir Andernach usually blows water from 30 to 60 meters (98 feet to 197 feet) high. The highest ejection reached 61.5 meters (201.7 feet), recorded on September 19, 2002.

Cold-water geysers are different from naturally occurring hot-water geysers. The cold underground water erupts from a drilled well. The Andernach well is more than 350 meters (1,148 feet) deep.

Coldest road

The Kolyma Highway (M56) in Russia is the coldest road on Earth -- temperatures once plunged to -67.7 degrees C (-89.8 F).

A section of the 2,031-kilometer (1,262-mile) highway is called the "Road of Bones" to commemorate the prisoners from the Sewostlag Labour Camp who died constructing the road and were buried beneath it.

READ: World's greatest wildernesses

Largest non-polar ice field

You don't need to live in the polar regions to be stuck in the middle of a vast ice field.

The largest ice field outside the Poles is Yukon Territory in Canada, inside the 21,980-square-kilometer (8,486-square-mile) Kluane National Park and Reserve.

Antarctica: desert with ample water, but in a different form.
Antarctica: desert with ample water, but in a different form.

Largest desert

No, not the Sahara.

A desert is defined as an area that has no or very little rainfall. The largest desert in the world is Antarctica, which is 14 million kilometers squared (5.4 million square miles) and records only 50 millimeters (2 inches) of precipitation per year.

The 9.1-million-kilometer-square (3.5 million square miles) Sahara, according to Guinness World Records, is only the biggest hot desert.

Inhabited place with the lowest temperature

The coldest permanently inhabited place is the Siberian village of Oymyakon, Russia.

The temperature once dropped to -68 C (-90.4 F) in 1933 -- the coldest temperature recorded outside Antarctica.

Some extreme weather records are provided by Guinness World Records. The latest edition of Guinness World Records 2013 was released on September 13, 2012. Check out more on Guinness World Records' website.

MORE: 22 travel records

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 2, 2014 -- Updated 1634 GMT (0034 HKT)
In honor of Canada Day, a look at some of the country's most incredible manmade and natural beauties.
July 6, 2014 -- Updated 2140 GMT (0540 HKT)
A 666-meter-long bridge shaped like a fire-breathing dragon heralds a new era of prosperity in Da Nang, Vietnam.
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 1249 GMT (2049 HKT)
There's a chance of being trampled or even gored, but thousands flock annually to the Spanish fiesta immortalized by Ernest Hemingway
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 0854 GMT (1654 HKT)
Alcazar castle in Spain will stand in for Water Gardens of Dorne in the popular HBO series.
July 2, 2014 -- Updated 1638 GMT (0038 HKT)
Before you join the masses in the hopes of snapping a geisha on her way to work, it's worth learning a few unwritten rules.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 0808 GMT (1608 HKT)
Baptiste Dubanchet poses with food he's recovered from a trash can.
To highlight food waste, Frenchman travels across Europe fueled only by food recovered from trash cans.
July 2, 2014 -- Updated 0731 GMT (1531 HKT)
Tour companies are cashing in on demand from timid thrill seekers who want to safely experience Bangkok's infamously raunchy nightlife.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 1657 GMT (0057 HKT)
Dreading airport security, lost luggage or that middle seat? These travel headaches could be a thing of the past by 2024, according to a new report on the future of travel.
June 30, 2014 -- Updated 1253 GMT (2053 HKT)
Latest model of aircraft affectionately known as the Queen of the Skies gets the red ribbon treatment, but jumbo jets are facing tough times
June 30, 2014 -- Updated 1229 GMT (2029 HKT)
A former soldier plans to trek every country in the world, having been diagnosed with PTSD.
June 30, 2014 -- Updated 0004 GMT (0804 HKT)
Sometimes the travel industry gets it right, sometimes it leaves us with a pillow chocolate stuck to our face.
June 28, 2014 -- Updated 0039 GMT (0839 HKT)
A rocky, battle-scarred island, a beach that looks like a cathedral and a watery gold mine make new list of Spanish national treasures.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
Architects hope their design for a one-kilometer tall building in the Chinese city of Wuhan will be completed by 2017.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
From holy water in ancient Egypt to burritos and gold bars -- how vending machines have evolved.
June 30, 2014 -- Updated 0150 GMT (0950 HKT)
Featuring white beaches and turquoise waters, Cambodia's islands are finally starting to get the attention they deserve.
ADVERTISEMENT