Thursday, December 24, 2009

Minus 33 on 12-23-09

Minus 33 on 12-23-09
Temp--minus 33 F (-36 C) Wind--calm

Some interesting things begin to happen at -33.
First, it is just plain very cold. Anything metal is off-limits. Do not touch metal poles, doors, railings, etc. that have been out in the open for more than a few hours. Definitely do not touch your tongue to a flagpole.

Second, people change their habits out in the open. Most will wear a scarf across the face because breathing air this cold can be damaging to your lungs. It creates a condition similar to emphysema from damaged tissue that is not repaired. They look like a gang of bandits briskly moving down the snow-encrusted sidewalks and roads.

Wearing a scarf across your face does have some interesting side effects other than your being mistaken for a robber. Under normal circumstances your breath would go right through the scarf and leave nothing. At -33, the moisture in your breath freezes on the outside of the scarf and it soon smells like whatever you had for breakfast. By the time you get home at the end of the day, your scarf needs a good cleaning and you put a package of mints in your pocket for tomorrow.

Those who do not wish to pollute a good scarf will stand or walk with a hand over the face. This provides the same protection without the stained scarf. Many of the 20-something generation are very style conscious and will choose this method to preserve the wardrobe.

Windows display some peculiar behaviors as well. At higher temperatures, any moisture in the house, car, or office may fog the windows, but will soon disappear in this very dry climate, the ambient humidity being in the low 20's. At -33, any moisture in the room seeks out a cold window and immediately becomes ice, requiring a credit card or other scrapping device to remove it. Even the inside of double-pane windows will become ice machines. Also, the rubber gaskets around the more modern vinyl window frames become rigid and will not seal properly at this temperature, letting in rather frosty air, even in the absence of wind.

Other interesting things include diesel and gasoline that become thick and sluggish, car exhaust that hangs close to the ground and makes artificial fog on busy streets, spit that freezes in midair (if it is not too thick), fingers that burn like fire after only a minute or two exposure, everything flexible becomes ridged and brittle, the puppies stop cavorting in the construction yard across the street, you wear your coat inside the supermarket, smoker are more nervous with fewer cigarette breaks at work, "cold cash" takes on new meaning at an ATM on the street, and the METRO becomes a haven for sensible people.

Cold seeks heat like a bee seeks nectar or a frog seeks water. It will press into every crevice and crack, unaided by wind. It is like the night monsters trying to find a way into your room. Cold is relentless and brutal. It will suck the heat out of your ears, your nose, your eyes, your nostrils, fingers, even your very breath. It is always grasping, clawing to get at you and when it does, danger lurks. Frostbite is a real danger here at these temperatures and should not be treated casually. Cold is a killer that Siberians dance with all winter, needing to stay in contact, but skillfully twirling away into some warm spot to break its icee embrace for a moment and then resuming the dance as they move on.

Yep, -33 is downright cold as Elder Brock Peterson shows here, but it probably won't be the record low for the year. It is only a matter of time when -40 will hang on for weeks in February. Stay tuned. I have run out of excuses to leave the mission in February, the coldest month of the year. Here Elder Peterson shows the result of breath moisture freezing on your hood, hat, and mask at -35 in Snigeiri, near Novo.

What a frozen country .


Emily said...

Wow! We got 20 inches of snow here last weekend, an unusual occurrence which send the kids into early Christmas break. But already the sun is melting it. No wonder folks were sent to Siberia- cold!

Shannon said...

ccc-old! you will enjoy a warm vacation upon your return from the mish...

Belva said...

I am freezing already. Just the thought of what you described makes me want to put on my new Christmas fleece scarf and mittens.
We were snowed in for two days here in Denmark last only about a foot and a half of snow.
I think that March will be an unforgetable gift when you return to sunny california. I am looking forward to July but I won't ever miss our Sacramento heat. Merry Christmas. We love you, see you on skype. Belva

Trisha said...

I guess I can not complain any more. Enjoy this for the last time. Find the beauty in it.

Carol said...

All I can say is Brrrrrr!!!!!!!! Stay warm!

Bob Steed said...

I have never in my life experienced that much cold. Wow! I am guessing snow camping with the Scouts is not the same. What a resiliant people.

Diane Keys said...

Your pictures and description are quite stunning. I hadn't ever thought about spit freezing in mid..well...spit. It's not quite so bad in Utah, though I had to laugh when I talked with Shannon on Christmas Day on SKYPE. She wanted to show me one of the desserts she and Trish had made and excused herself a moment to retrieve it from the back yard. Apparently, the refrigerator was full, so some food was being stowed outside. Love and miss you.