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Friday Fun Facts About Cold Weather

BOWES, ENGLAND – MARCH 27: A snow plough clears the A66 road under heavy snowfall near to Bowes in County Durham on March 27, 2013 in northern England. Across the UK heavy snow and freezing temperatures continue to cause disruption as Britain endures the coldest March in 50 years. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

If you don’t appreciate cold weather then you might want to rethink any ideas of relocating to Montana. I think Montana gets a bad rap in many respects as being much colder than it actually is. When I first moved to Montana in 1993 I was prepared for weather similar to what I had experienced growing up in Southern Illinois. Other than more snow and a lower humidity I was not disappointed.

The great thing about Montana weather is that you are never sure exactly what you are going to get. I’ve seen snow in some form every month of the year. Not every year of course but June snowstorms are not uncommon and I would recommend a jacket for watching July 4th fireworks.  We do get breaks from cold weather in Montana. Bitter cold and snow often give way to sunny days of 40-50 degrees throughout the winter season. But there are some spots much colder than Montana. Here are some examples.

How Cold Is Cold?

There are physical laws in the universe that can’t be broken. One of those is the point where it can’t get any colder. That point is -459.67 F degrees or as it’s known in scientific circles as “absolute zero.” As far as anyone knows this point has never been reached. But we’ve come close.

A team from Helsinki University of Technology cooled a piece of the rare metal rhodium to a tenth of a billionth of a degree above absolute zero. I would say that’s pretty darn close. Considering that the average temperature in the universe is 2.8 degrees above absolute zero this lab in Finland was briefly one of the coldest places in the entire universe.

The Coldest City?

That honor would belong to Vostak station in Antarctica that recorded a temperature of -128 F in 1983. The coldest city with residents would be Yakutsk, the capital of the Republic of Yakutia formerly part of Siberia. It has an average January temperature of about -40 F.

How does one cope with those types of temperatures? Cars are left running so the engines won’t freeze. The 200,000 residents don’t wear wire rimmed glasses outside because they will stick to and tear the skin.

Where Was The Coldest Spot In North America?

On February 3, 1947 the temperature at Snag Airport in the Canadian Yukon reached a very cool -81.4 F. Dogs could be heard barking three miles away because of the dense air and lack of wind.

The duty officer at the airport said he could follow where people had gone because their breath would hang in the air for up to 15 minutes after they had left. Breathing left a motionless mist about head level behind the person. Sometimes breath with enough moisture would freeze and fall like snow or ice making a tinkling sound.

Cool As a Cucumber?

John Gay first used the phrase, “cool as a cucumber” in a poem in 1732. Whether Gay knew it or not a cucumber will actually be up to 20 degrees cooler at its core than the outside air around it.

Keep A Cool Head

We’ve all heard that we lose a lot of heat from our heads. If you’ve ever watched a freezing cold football game and watched a player remove his helmet you can see a huge cloud of steam rising from his head.

Professor Gordon Giesbrecht, University of Manitoba, disputes the theory that heat is lost mostly through the head. He claims that the head and neck are only 10 percent of our body surface and don’t lose heat any faster than any other part of the body. Your head seems colder because the concentration of nerve cells in the head and neck are five times more sensitive to temperature changes than other body surfaces.

Some Final Thoughts

It’s twelve below zero on my deck as I write this. No I’m not out on the deck enjoying the snow. The highs for the rest of the week are single digits until Sunday when it’s supposed to get to 19 degrees.

Cold weather can be a serious problem for many people. Hard starting of automobiles. Slips and falls on ice, frostbite to extremities that are not properly protected can be common this time of year. But the snow and cold sure help put me in the Christmas spirit so I guess the trade off is worth it. Weather or not I’m not going anywhere today. Just enjoying a warm fire and the beautiful views.

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