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Green Bay vs. Siberia: comparing Poles of Cold

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 5:02 PM GMT on January 20, 2008

Sure, it's cold in football's Pole of Cold--Green Bay, Wisconsin--where game time temperatures for today's NFC Championship Game will be lucky to crack zero degrees Fahrenheit, making it the third coldest NFL playoff game ever. Yeah, those crazy bare-chested Green Bay fans sure look pretty tough in that extreme cold, but they are total wimps compared to the people living in Siberia's Pole of Cold--Ojmjakon, Russia. The temperatures in Ojmjakon this weekend fell to -76°F, making the game being played in Green Bay seem like a summer tea party.

This weekend's -76°F reading was not very unusual for Ojmjakon (also spelled Oymyakon), which is considered to be the coldest inhabited town on earth. Ojmjakon also reached -76°F in both 2007 and 2005. The city lies in a river valley in eastern Siberia, and the cold air pools at night in the bottom of the valley, creating ridiculously low temperatures. On February 6, 1933, an absolute minimum of -67.7°C (-89.9°F) was registered in Oymyakon, putting the city in a virtual tie with the -67.8°C (-90.0°F) measured at Verkhoyank, Siberia on January 15, 1885. These are the two coldest temperatures ever measured on earth, outside of Antarctica. On January 26, 1926, a astonishing -71.2°C (-96.2°F) was measured at Ojmjakon. However, this temperature is unofficial, since the temperature was not directly measured, but obtained by extrapolation.

Figure 1.The world's coldest inhabited city, Ojmjakon, Russia, lies in a river valley in eastern Siberia. Image credit: Google.

According to Chris Burt's Extreme Weather: A Guide and Record Book, supply trucks servicing the area must never turn off their engines in winter. If the engine block freezes, truckers light a fire underneath it to warm it up. When the temperature falls below -58°F (-50°C), ice crystals in the atmosphere make a swishing sound called the "whispering of the stars". What's it like at -80°? Again, Chris Burt's book provides some insight. Two weather observers at the Snag airport in the Yukon of Canada experienced -81.4°F on February 3, 1947, and reported:

"We threw a dish of water high into the air, just to see what would happen. Before it hit the ground, it made a hissing noise, froze, and feel as tiny round pellets the size of wheat kernels. Spit also froze before hitting the ground. Ice became so hard the axe rebounded from it. At such temperatures, metal snapped like ice; wood became petrified; and rubber was just like cement. The dogs' leather harness couldn't bend or it would break...It was unique to see a vapor trail several yards long pursuing one as he moved about outside. Becoming lost was of no concern. As an observer walked along the runway each breath remained as a tiny motionless mist behind him at head level. These patches of human breath fog remained in the still air for three or four minutes before fading away. One observer even found such a trail still marking his path when he returned along the same path 15 minutes later".

Jeff Masters

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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144. emacsdude
5:12 AM GMT on January 30, 2008
As a matter of fact, I was in Oymyakon on January the 19th, and according to the town's weather station, the temperature actually dropped to an amazing -66c, -87f. I don't know why it was reported to be -76f, but I suspect that it may be that the temperatures readings only go down to -60c. I have a pictures of the thermometer outside our hotel in Tomtor that shows a temperature of -65c on the morning of the 19 of January. Tomtor is about 25 miles away from Oymyakon and also has very cold temperatures.

I spent a day or so at -80 and would like to dispel some of the myths about those sort of temperatures alluded to in the original post.

First of all, you can indeed throw a cup of water in the air and it will dissipate in a cloud of steam, but it has to be really hot water. If you throw up a cup of cold water, it comes down as cold water. By the way, you can do this even at -40.

Spit does not freeze before it hits the ground.

I didn't hear anything that sounded like the "whispering of the stars" and I was in weather that was colder than -50c for many days.

However, the air is full of ice crystals which you cannot see during the day, but show up on a flash picture at night. These seem to appear at -40 or so.

Ice is not rock hard and immune to an axe chipping away at it. Ice behaves just like ice. We watched some guy chip away at the ice on the frozen Indgirka river in order to measure its depth, and I chipped at it for a while. It seemed to behave just like ordinary ice.

You can actually touch cold metal and your skin does not stick to it. However, after a few seconds it becomes too painfully cold to hold on to.

My camera worked just fine at those temperatures. I had it on a string around my neck under my coat and I would take it out periodically to take pictures with it. I detected no shortening of the battery life. The only thing I noticed was that after a while in the extreme cold, the LCD display began working very slowly.

I was out in the -80 temperatures for about an hour and put the camera in an outer coat pocket. When I tried to turn it back on, it wouldn't come on. After warming it up inside for while, it worked fine. The batteries were just fine.

Your breath does come out in a huge cloud but it goes away fairly quickly. It makes a slight hissing noise if you breathe out a lot as the water wapor in the breath freezes. I seriously doubt that it would still be around 15 minutes later. Cars and trucks make huge vapor trails behind them which last for several minutes. In cities, this never goes away because of the number of cars driving around. This is known as ice fog and on the trip, was evident only in the city of Yakutsk.
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143. NEwxguy
3:23 PM GMT on January 23, 2008
Me too 786,gotta do some work.jp I hope your right that things can't get much worse,but I don't see anything right now to fill me with any confidence.
Oh and heres hoping it warms up soon,thought I'd throw some weather into our conversation.
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141. NEwxguy
3:18 PM GMT on January 23, 2008
I know about insurance,I've watched my insurance costs go up,what is covered go down and now insurance companies tell you what medication you can have and how much,its a disaster,and I'm still waiting for a candidate to talk about how he plans on fixing it.
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140. 786
3:16 PM GMT on January 23, 2008
Ok better get to work B4 I get in s%*t. Nice chatting w/u.
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139. NEwxguy
3:15 PM GMT on January 23, 2008
anyway heres hoping things do get better,and hoping we get out of Irag soon.
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138. 786
3:13 PM GMT on January 23, 2008
I agree, politics is full of it since it is run by people. But it really can't get much worse than it is now...unless McCain gets into office that is. I just hope that the states can start practising democracy instead of preaching it. I should clarify that I'm not Amercian, I'm Canadian and I know what free healthcare is like (well not in Cayman) but everyone deserves that right if they have to give up $$ in taxes. Everyone has a value no matter how much $$ they have. And the elections are so important now for everyone since the U.S. is so powerful and we are very much so effected by their decisions.
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137. NEwxguy
3:13 PM GMT on January 23, 2008
nope dislike both parties,because they both have their own agenda,have been an independent all my life,trying to find the best candidate who do the best for the people,unfortunately haven't seen any in my life time.
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136. NEwxguy
3:10 PM GMT on January 23, 2008
jp,I'm not jumping to conclusions,I've been around a long time and seen presidents come and presidents go,and realize now,that as long as we have a congress and senate that look at things through party lines,nothing ever gets accomplished.And yes things can get much worse,do not expect gas prices to go down no matter who gets in there.
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132. NEwxguy
3:03 PM GMT on January 23, 2008
I hope everyone rushing to vote Democrat won't hold the fantasy they are going to fix anything.Our two party system is broke,and neither party really has the desire to fix anything. Thats my cynical outlook for the day.
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131. 786
2:56 PM GMT on January 23, 2008
Yeah JP it pisses me off, Bush is officially retarded. I hope that the Democrats can bring the country back and do something for the healthcare system and economy. Not sure who I like better though. Yeah sorry anytime that conversation comes up, I can't help myself...ok time for a cig.
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130. 786
2:51 PM GMT on January 23, 2008
As for GW, morally if you break something, you should fix it. We have torn apart the balance of our planet so morally we are obliged to fix it, more so than worrying about killing other people. At the end of the day GW will take care of that, because the earth will come back as it always has, we are just making conditions unsustainable for human exiatence. And in our lifetimes we will see catastrophy as a result, the consequences will be much closer to home than you think and every single person in the world no matter what label people have created for them, no matter what religion, or what they do in life all people breathe the same air, all people are vunerable and can make a significant difference and should as one instaed of concentrate don petty human BS. Thats it from me have a nice day!
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128. 786
2:42 PM GMT on January 23, 2008
The world is not a safe place wherever people exist, 9/11 is not that special in the light of what is going on in the world and what has. The administration has killed 100 times more poeple as a result so I think they have gotten their vengence. If you don't want terrorists then its also a good idea for the country not to fuel them.
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127. 786
2:38 PM GMT on January 23, 2008
Hello, just checking in. Love the winters in the Caribbean, nice and cool. Terrorists god, more people have died in Iraq than during 9/11, many, many more people have died of starvation since and civil warfare than 9/11 since. So time to get over it really, its played out, the U.S. can't be a victim for life. And if you look up the definition of terrorist what do you think Bush is?? He fits the mold.
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124. franck
1:37 PM GMT on January 23, 2008
leftovers...I heard that, or was that a 9 millimeter??
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123. WunderFul
1:34 PM GMT on January 23, 2008
I didn't say the Greenland cap would collapse tomorrow, but we might see some dramatic (and unanticipated) effects even in our short lifespans. What's funny is the comment that terrorism is a much greater current threat. Let's suppose that is true. Where are the terrorists getting their financial resources? Probably oil-related money and profits. How can you help get rid of terrorism? Find ways to cut back on the use of oil and other fossil fuels. Seems to me the two are highly related, and if we can address one, we also address the other. Short term and long term benefits. Find ways to replace the demand for oil -- reduce terrorism and the effects of GW at the same time. We just need some political (and personal) will to make it happen.
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121. sxwarren
12:15 PM GMT on January 23, 2008
WunderFul --

Selfishly, I'm not all that concerned with the drama of obvious catastrophe that may occur long after I'm dead. What concerns me is the series of relatively small disruptions that now seem likely to occur with increasing frequency over the next 10-20 years - events that, each taken alone, won't seem like much but may, collectively, have significant socio-economic consequences.

For instance, even a gradual sea level rise of just a few inches would result in a loss of shoreline sufficient to have a potentially significant disruptive effect on the ecology and economic activity of low-lying coastal areas such as ports, fisheries, recreation areas, etc., that will lead to population displacements and other effects that will need to be dealt with. Also, localized weather extremes, wet as well as dry, that could incrementally reduce the quality as well as quantity of grain harvests enough to further increase food prices (e.g., the wet spring a couple years back that unexpectedly reduced the Canadian wheat harvest by 15%).

Whether GW is anthropogenic or not, it seems unwise to focus on "disaster movie" effects that may occur 50 years hence while less cinematic near term consequences go ignored and unprepared for.
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118. Cavin Rawlins
10:37 AM GMT on January 23, 2008
atmosphere in c/bean section should be troposphere.
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117. Cavin Rawlins
9:47 AM GMT on January 23, 2008
Good morning to all



A stationary front roughly extends along the Texas border from New Mexico to the Gulf Coast...a cold front continues across the Northwest portion of the Gulf and into the Southeast United States. Most of the moisture along the front is in the form of scattered to isolated showers across Northern Mexico, the Gulf region north of 25N and Florida north of 26N. Elsewhere, a weak surface pressure pattern has developed leading to light-moderate variable winds and fair weather.

A stationary front cuts across the Atlantic along 27N/75W 26N/60W 30N/40W. While most of this feature is relatively inactive, upper divergence within the left entrance region of weak upper ridge is providing enough rising motion to produce vigorous shower and thunderstorm activity...as suggested by lighting data...from 70W to 65W north of 25N. Additional activity is invading the Western Atlantic west of 75W ahead of cold front pushing off the SE CONUS.


QuikSCAT and surface observations through 0900 UTC revealed trades have increase across the Caribbean east of 70W due to the distortion of a ridge in the Central Atlantic by the frontal boundary to the north. These trades are producing 7-8 ft seas with 12 ft seas across the Colombian Coast. ROABS from Kingston, Jamaica and Saint Maarten, Netherlands revealed a typical vertical profile of the Caribbean winter atmosphere...Mid-upper level dry westerlieres above moist surface easterlies...that correlates to mainly fair weather with periods of tradewind moisture across most parts. Unusually chilly weather can be expected across the far northeast Caribbean where cold air advection is taking place.

By W456
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116. quasigeostropic
6:56 AM GMT on January 23, 2008
Cycles. Solar activity. That's my abridged version. See the full one on my page if you like.
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115. WunderFul
5:53 AM GMT on January 23, 2008
My take on GW -- I've lived here in the upper midwest my entire life (almost 40 years). I'm seeing changes consistent with GW models. Less snow cover, lengthened warm seasons, shorter winters, falling lake levels, more severe weather extremes (including 90 degree weather and F3 tornados in October this year). We've had 3 years in a row now where you could golf in January (albeit it would have been in a hard rainstorm this year!), after an entire life with no chance of that. From a selfish perspective, I like the shorter winters, but from a global perspective, it has me worried. Problem with not doing anything now: land-based ice cap collapses causing major rise in sea levels, causing millions to be misplaced (major population displacements throughout history always result in wars). I'm fully expecting in our lifetime -- only then will people realize evidence was right in front of our faces. I'm a bit cynical on this -- I don't expect necessary change until after a catastrophe (or two or three). Will you buy the GW arguments when the north polar region is ice free (which may now happen in the next decade)? Or only when half of the Greenland ice cap is floating in the North Atlantic? Or when NY and Miami are under water? Not sure what else people need to see to understand this is happening now. By the time we have "complete" evidence, it will be too late. I hope the sunspot researcher is right and that a prolonged cold snap is coming. Perhaps we'll get lucky and the CO2 and methane increases will be offset by low sunspot activity and we'll have a "soft landing". If not, start buying property at a line about 40 feet above sea level. Your grandkids will be rich in about 50 years.
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114. CajunSubbie
5:16 AM GMT on January 23, 2008

Arab world shivers in unusual cold snap
Jordan's airport shut down by ice, other nations shiver as well

AMMAN, Jordan - The lone de-icing machine at Jordan's busy international airport worked frantically on Tuesday to clear planes for take off when a freak snowstorm blanketed this small desert country in a cold snap that has the whole region shivering.

Worst cold front since 1964
Meteorologists in the region are calling it the worst cold front since 1964 and attributing it to a high pressure zone in northern Europe that is forcing cold air into the Middle East.

The 10-day old cold front has also destroyed fruits and vegetables in the Jordan Valley, compounding worries that food prices will jump higher amid concerns about skyrocketing fuel prices as the government removes subsidies on basic commodities.
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113. NorthxCakalaky
3:58 AM GMT on January 23, 2008
Looks like the Eastern U.S will warm up next week while the Western States cool down.

No more snow for the south!
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111. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
1:46 AM GMT on January 23, 2008

though this track isn't INVEST.97S there is another possible development in the southwestern Indian Ocean.
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110. tmangray
1:21 AM GMT on January 23, 2008
We're having snow down to 1500 foot elevations here in the San Francisco Bay Area today and forecasted for the next few days. One might wonder where the global warming is.

However, I note on the NWS snow cover satellite coverage maps that the polar ice cap has not filled in as in years past, and that over the past several days, thawing is already creeping up along the Greenland coasts.

I might add that the current cold snap hereabouts is typical about this time of year, although its duration seems a bit extended, perhaps a paradoxical effect of global warming, perhaps affecting the upper wind flow pattern in a slightly atypical way.

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109. HurricaneGeek
12:40 AM GMT on January 23, 2008
supposed to hit -81°F in Ojmjakon on Thursday...Dr. M ...NICE BLOG!!!
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108. Cavin Rawlins
12:35 AM GMT on January 23, 2008
hello CatastrophicDL and Stormjunkie
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107. GBlet
12:35 AM GMT on January 23, 2008
Hey everybody! Coming to ya live from the center of the U.S. where it is colder than a well digger's butt. If it has to be this cold, then let there be snow because this is just plain mean. Looking forward to the weekend and 40 degree temps!
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105. Cavin Rawlins
12:33 AM GMT on January 23, 2008
Tropical Invest 97S Update 1
Southwest Indian Ocean North of Madagascar

Issued 0000 UTC WED 23 Jan 2007 by W456

Tropical Invest centered near 10.0S-51.0E, drifting. Estimated surface winds are 20-30 knots and minimum central pressure is near 1008 mb. SSTs are 29-31C and wind shear is 10-20 knots.

A combination of methods was used to position the center, among them were extrapolation of QuikSCAT passes, satellite-derived low level winds and convergence, and numerical models. However, the biggest help of all was microwave imagery which supported these findings. The low level closed circulation is somewhat elongated and to the east of the convective mass due southeasterly vertical wind shear. The system is producing gale force gusts as seen on QuikSCAT. Pressure was estimated using numerical models. Global models do develop this system and conditions appear and should remain favorable for development. Also, something else that should be noted is that the models also develop a system in close vicinity to 97S and at that distance one storm will hinder the other's development process.

By W456

JTWC Stats:

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103. latitude25
12:18 AM GMT on January 23, 2008
but they will stike in different places than they have in the past.

Doesn't that sound like a typical weather forecast? LOL
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102. CatastrophicDL
12:17 AM GMT on January 23, 2008
Hi Drak, Storm, Vot, 456 and everyone else. It was 7 degrees here this morning. The 10" of snow from yesterday took me two hours to clear. I had to hop on here and see who is bragging about being warm! :o)

I was reading an article in National Geographic this morning and one of the comments about global warming and the drought in the south said that there will always be drought, there will always be storms and severe weather, but they will stike in different places than they have in the past.
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101. latitude25
12:16 AM GMT on January 23, 2008
67. Weather456 11:26 AM EST on January 22, 2008
Measurements show that over the last century the Earth’s climate has warmed overall,
Furthermore, a single year of cold weather in one region of the globe is not an indication of a trend in the global climate, which refers to a long-term average over the entire planet.

MYTH: Scientists are able to establish a trend in global climate, using a 100year data base.

FACT: 100year trends are common. 100years of increasing temp, then 100years of decreasing temp.

FACT: No one on the face of this planet knows if we are all going to burn and die, or plunge into another ice age.

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100. Dakster
12:15 AM GMT on January 23, 2008

Why can't they just say, it's weather and every season is different for a whole bunch of reason we can't yet explain? (Rhetorical question)

No one has ever said, we just don't know at this point....
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99. franck
12:12 AM GMT on January 23, 2008
Nothing I hate worse than a internet inventor.
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98. N3EG
11:43 PM GMT on January 22, 2008
Hmmmm...Ever since we went "green" full throttle the world economy has fallen to terrible lows. Thanks a lot Mr. Gore, you're a superb economist as well as a scientist...

I blame Al Gore for: this winter, my refrigerator not defrosting, and polar bears eating Eskimos. Curse you, Inventor of the Internet!!!
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97. PaulBedfordUK
11:40 PM GMT on January 22, 2008
We have just had a week of unusually heavy rain (for January) and mild temperatures excluding Scotland. Winter mild relative to 15 years ago but typical of recent winters. We used to have risk of ground frost up to end-May and after begining of September. Now we don't get frost in May or until November, to teh improvement of the growing season. And yes, I remember the new ice age concerns in the 70's. Global warming could freeze the UK if the north atlantic drift switches off (has happened before, caused icebergs down to Portugal, pre-history though). Also, the rain bearing winds that feed the US grain belt apparently would only have to switch a few degrees in direction to catch the mountains and thereby loose the moisture, so who knows ?
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96. Drakoen
11:28 PM GMT on January 22, 2008
Southeast weather Blog is updated.

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95. beell
10:38 PM GMT on January 22, 2008
235 PM EST TUE JAN 22 2008

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94. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
10:28 PM GMT on January 22, 2008

1800z - JTWC 20kts 1007mb
- RSMC 25kts 1006hPa

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