Much like many other people, I dislike rain and cold. Sadly, where I live, autumn and winter weather is often exactly that: rainy and a bit cold. But it’s not that bad, and in order to stop feeling bad about it, I configured all my phone weather apps to display, apart from the weather for my current location and my hometown, an assortment of places where the weather is much worse.
The purpose of this blog entry is two-fold: one, I want to show people living in A’dam and similarly depressing cities of Northern Europe that they have nothing to complain about, two, I want to share my bizarre passion for finding places with truly abhorrent weather.
Unalaska, Alaska, United States
I decided to pick on Unalaska, because it’s the biggest settlement of the region, but honestly any place within Aleutian Islands would do, because the climate there is really, really bad. The climate of the archipelago is classified as Cfc in Köppen climate classification, i.e., oceanic climate->subpolar variety. What does this mean? Lots of rain all year round, winters that are long, mild (given the latitude) but cold (objectively), and short, cool summers. This is the category of most of coastal northern Norway, Faroe Islands, southern Iceland—you get the picture. Aleutian Islands win the prize over their European counterparts, though, because of the ridiculous remoteness (and also the constant fog). Can’t escape the January nastiness for a long weekend in Spain like the citizens of Reykjavik often do. Closest place with nice weather is California, and that’s multiple expensive flights and crossing a couple of timezones. Sorry, Aleutians. Your nature seems beautiful, but you take the crown.
All you geography nerds that are about to point out that technically southern tip of Chile/Argentina is in the same boat, don’t forget the climate there is significantly drier; like, half-the-precipitation-a-year drier.
Pevek, Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, Russia
Ah, Pevek, the adorable (not) little port on the Arctic Ocean. Climate classification is Köppen ET—tundra climate, i.e., looong, cold winters, short and mild summers. Not as rainy as Cfc, but significantly colder. Much of Nunavut, Svalbard, and large parts of Chukotka, Yakutia and Siberia fall under the same climate category of course, but Pevek wins the prize because of extreme remoteness, and the depressing nature of its half-abandoned post-Soviet blocks of flats built on permafrost. Just look at this:
Not only, as in the Aleutian case, is it hard to escape, but there’s hardly any nature other than the Arctic coast, and you’re surrounded by depressing Stalinist concrete that’s falling apart.
Verkhoyansk, Sakha Republic, Russia
Verkhohyansk and neighboring Oymyakon compete for the prize of being officially recognized as “the Pole of Cold.” They share the lowest ever recorded temperature in the northern hemisphere, −67.8 °C (−90.0 °F). Nippy, no? At the same time, Verkhoyansk is one of only two places beyond the Arctic circle to reach 38.0 °C (100.4 °F) in the summer. Köppen climate classification is Dfd—subarctic climate, extremely continental. The whole area of central Yakutia is like this, to a slightly lesser or greater extent. It’s dry, with short, hot summers, and long, ridiculously cold winters. Funny thing, unlike our two previous heroes, this region also includes a proper city: Yakutsk, with a university, theaters, shopping malls, an international airport and over 300,000 inhabitants. All this, and over a 100 °C temperature range in a year. Verkhoyansk gets the prize due to its remoteness and the fact that it’s the extreme of extreme, a tip of the iceberg if you will.
López de Micay, Cauca, Colombia
We turn to warmer climates, which can also be quite nasty. López de Micay is a small town in southwestern Colombia. Climate classification: Af, which can be read “hot and humid af.” Much of the equatorial regions of the word share this classification, but López de Micay is special. To illustrate what I mean, I will use the chart stolen from climate-data.org:
Are there inhabited places that are rainier than López de Micay? Possibly, some villages in northeastern India, if you compare by total amount per annum. But those have seasons, and the vast majority of the rain comes during monsoons, whereas the Colombian town gets consistent, massive amounts of rain all year. At least it’s not cold.
Even though I cope with heat and very hot/humid climates much worse than I do with cold ones, I decided not to include any extreme cases of those. Desert climates are generally uninhabited, with few exceptions (Arabian Peninsula, parts of Arizona) where people stay in air-conditioned homes and air-conditioned cars most of the time, or where people are so poor and countries so failed that really bad weather is the least of their worries (Sahel, Horn of Africa, DRC). I also seldom suffer from being too hot in Amsterdam, so I don’t need to remind myself “others have it worse.”
If, while reading this, you’re thinking that I basically pity people living in places mentioned above, you’re wrong. I actually find the fact that people live in horrible climates fascinating, and I admire parts of the world that are remote, harsh and somewhat inaccessible. It’s actually a dream of mine to go to the Aleutian islands or have a drink (or 10) with locals in Pevek or Yakutsk one day.
A dream that will likely never come true, but hey—that’s not what dreams are for.