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Summer heat waves have you clinging to your air conditioner and guzzling ice water? Count your blessings the climate could always be worse.
Here are some of the hottest, coldest and all-around harshest places on Earth.
GreenlandSlide 2 of 15
All but the rocky coastline of this island nation is covered in an ice sheet up to 1.8 miles (3 kilometers) thick. If that's not enough of a tip-off that Greenland's name doesn't represent truth in advertising, consider that the northernmost edge of the country is a mere 460 miles (740 km) from the North Pole.
The ice sheet keeps Greenland's population of 57,000 confined to the coastline, where ice gives way to fjords and barren mountains. The northeast quarter of the island, known simply as The National Park, is populated only by polar bears, walruses and other Arctic wildlife. Other than whalers, seal-hunters and the occasional scientist, few humans travel into the Park. The nearest village, Ittoqqortoormiit, sees three months without a sunset every summer, which may help make up for mid-November to mid-January, when the sun never rises over the horizon.Slide 3 of 15
Sistan Basin, AfghanistanSlide 4 of 15
Sistan Basin, Afghanistan
This region along the southern border of Afghanistan is one of the driest in the world, and recent events have made it worse.
Despite its arid climate, the Sistan Basin used to be home to the Hamoun wetlands, an 800-square-mile (2,000-square-km) oasis fed by the Helmand River. The wetlands supported wildlife and human agriculture until the 1990s, when they began to disappear.
The reason was decades of damming and irrigation combined with an unprecedented drought. In 2001, according to NASA's Earth Observatory, precipitation in the Sistan Basin dropped 78 percent. The wetlands dried up and became a dustbowl.
The United Nations is part of an effort to reverse the damage, but war and instability are complicating efforts to return water to the desert.Slide 5 of 15
The Changtang region of the Tibetan PlateauSlide 6 of 15
The Changtang region of the Tibetan Plateau
If the Tibetan Plateau is the Roof of the World, the northern Changtang region is its apex. With an average elevation of 16,400 feet (5,000 meters), this high, dry steppe is punctuated by brackish wetlands. Despite short summers, arctic winters and precipitation that falls mostly as hail, birds, Tibetan gazelle and wild sheep survive in the Changtang.
So do a few hundred thousand people called the Changpa. These nomads move from camp to camp, herding goats and other livestock. But in Changtang and throughout the Tibetan Plateau, grasslands are dying as a result of overgrazing and climate change. The result, according to an April 2010 National Geographic article, is that nomads are forced to move to government resettlement camps, where they face unemployment and water shortages.Slide 7 of 15
SiberiaSlide 8 of 15