Since 1997, Astana has been the capital of Kazakhstan. This city of 700,000 is located in the middle of a steppe landscape between the Russian-influenced north and the thinly settled centre of the country. North of the Ishim River are the older quarters of the city, the newer sections are to the south. Astana enjoys a continental climate. Because there are no geographical barriers to the north, during the winter months the full force of the winds from northern Siberia sweeps into northern and central Kazakhstan. In the winter, the average temperature is -15°C, but at night it falls to -40°C. This makes Astana the second coldest capital in the world, following Ulan Bator.