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Sun, Jan. 4th, 2009 12:00 am
Call this cold? This is nothing!

Today, Sunday, is an exceptional day here in Berlin: the temperature is forecast to go above zero -- the only time it'll do that this week. A maximum of plus one centigrade is anticipated (wth a "glow"). Here's the view from my kitchen window at the moment:



Think that's cold? Have a listen to Francine Stock's 90 minute radio documentary about the Frost Fairs held on the Thames when it froze over. The first was in 1608, the last in 1814. The Thames has frozen over completely about twenty-five times in the past thousand years. A half to two thirds of those freezes happened in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, the "Little Ice Age", when ice from the Arctic crept as far south as the northern isles of Scotland, and polar bears jumped off ice floes and terrorized the crofters. In 1740 it was so cold in London that trees cracked apart "with the sound of artillery fire".

But don't let the soothing sounds played by Norwegian musician Terje Isungset on thousand-year-old glacier ice lull you into a false sense of security. Nothing that happens in Britain is really cold. For real cold we have to go to Siberia.



Britain's Little Ice Age would be considered a summer holiday in Yakutsk, the world's coldest city, where it's currently minus 38 centigrade, with light snow, 67% humidity, and overcast skies. A journalist from The Independent went to Yakutsk last winter. At first, the minus 40 cold didn't feel too bad. Then he stepped out of his hotel:

"The first place to suffer is the exposed skin on my face, which begins to sting, and then experience shooting pains, before going numb, which is apparently dangerous, because it means blood flow to the skin has stopped. Then the cold penetrates the double layer of gloves and sets to work on chilling my fingers. The woolly hat and padded hood are no match for minus 43C either, and my ears begin to sting. Next to succumb are the legs. Finally, I find myself with severe pain all across my body and have to return indoors. I look at my watch. I have been outside for 13 minutes."

Here's what happens to your hands at that kind of temperature:



In fact, if you're heading to Siberia, you might want to bear in mind this little chart:

Up to minus 40C it's absolutely fine (according to the Siberians).
At minus 50C diesel fuel freezes. (Bear in mind that if your car engine stops, you may well die.)
When it gets past minus 52C they close the schools.
At about minus 60C it becomes difficult to breathe.
At minus 65C birds die of cold in mid-flight.
Minus 71C is the minimum temperature recorded in Oymyakon.



Ah yes, Oymyakon. If you think Yakutsk is cold, do what this Sky News reporter did. Travel east from Yakutsk for three days (800 kilometers) and, a few hundred miles south of the Arctic circle, you'll reach Oymyakon:



People in Oymyakon eat only reindeer meat and horsemeat, no vegetables. They wear only fur -- artificial fabrics are no good at all.

I won't say I've been to Oymyakon, but every time I fly from Europe to Japan I see places in the vicinity from 30,000 feet up in the air. I always wonder how there can be a squeeze on space on the planet when there's all that empty territory down there in Siberia. I suppose the Oymyakons share my puzzlement. Minus 40? That's nothing.

42CommentReply

cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
Sun, Jan. 4th, 2009 09:25 pm (UTC)

Isn't it wonderful how some people still live in these parts of the world? Unlike us spoiled western folks...


ReplyThread
sm255
sm255
sm255
Sun, Jan. 4th, 2009 09:40 pm (UTC)

One of the hardest things about my 12 years living in England is my inability to stop longing for Canadian winters. The squinchy sound of boots on cold snow in the sky snippet triggered such nostalgia - there's a whole lifestyle, a whole lore and a whole suite of sensual and physical memories that's been cut out of my life since I moved to a land without winter. England doesn't have winters - it just remains dull brown November until March. The dramatic reduction of hours of daylight, without the mitigation of the dazzling light of a blanket of snow makes me crazed, still.


ReplyThread
the23
the23
the 23
Sun, Jan. 4th, 2009 10:44 pm (UTC)

the squeeze on space/population growth/depletion of natural resources is vastly overexaggerated seemingly as a matter of course.

given siberia also gets pretty warm in the summer we really should stop complaining about the weather in this country. it's not as if we are short of things to moan about.


ReplyThread
pay_option07
pay_option07
Mon, Jan. 5th, 2009 03:29 am (UTC)
That's nothing.

http://www.21stcenturysciencetech.com/Articles%202007/20_1-2_CO2_Scandal.pdf

Page 9 of 15 has the temperature variations for the last 10,000 years, and quite a rebuttal for present CO2 emission gradients standards data.


ReplyThread

(Anonymous)
Mon, Jan. 5th, 2009 04:30 am (UTC)
Not quite that cold here!

Greetings from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada!
It was -40 degrees C (with windchill) here today.
I had to drive the car around a bit to keep it from freezing
solid.


ReplyThread
solo01
solo01
Solo01
Mon, Jan. 5th, 2009 08:33 pm (UTC)

Hi!
I am from Russia, I lived in Yakutia 10 years, next to Oymyakon. Really, it was very funny.
Every morning, before use a car, drivers put a blowtorch under car engine. After it they left - to clean teeth and shave oneself. In 15-20 minutes a car engine was good to use.
Indeed our schools did not work only at -52C. Otherwise I walked in school every day. It is fully normal to conduct a lot of time outside at -35C. It was considered warmly.
In winter season heavy trucks, bulldozers and other heavy technique are not turned off at night. In the morning it will impossible to switch on. An indeed diesel fuel becomes thick - as condensed milk with sugar. Difficultly even to stir him a stick in a barrel. Metal instruments become fragile as glass.
At this time, if to breathe through a nose only, it is possible easily to get damages from frost in the nose. As if a burn, it's better to close a face a woolen. But only when it will be cold - below -40.
Indeed, clothes are preferable from natural fur only. Synthetic materials do not work almost.
But not all so awfully! When I lived there, I found it fully normal. Moreover, these were very happy years.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Jan. 5th, 2009 09:36 pm (UTC)

Nice to hear from a real Oymyakon! (Well, a Yakutian!) To us, these places sound like planets in another galaxy.


ReplyThread Parent
detura
detura
detura
Tue, Jan. 6th, 2009 01:38 am (UTC)

I grew up in Yakutsk and there is a reason I live in the desert now))) Thanks for the post!


ReplyThread