Winter is upon us in the Northern Hemisphere, the snow is falling and we are all doubtless complaining about the cold but all things are relative. How cold can it really get and what difficulties do extremely low temperatures bring with them?
The Coldest Day In Britain
The lowest ever temperature recorded in the United Kingdom was a chilly -27.2C° (-17 °F) at Braemar in Scotland. The exact same temperature was reached in this location on three occasions between 1895 and 1995 and so Braemar can definitely be considered the coldest place in the country! The all–time low in England was recorded in Newport, Shropshire October 1st 1982. These temperatures sound really cold but in global terms they are almost tropical!
Coldest Day in the USA
The lowest ever recorded temperature in the USA occurred at Prospect Creek in the state of Alaska January 23rd 1971 when the thermometer dipped to -62°C (-80F°). Now that is seriously cold but only marginally colder than the European record of -58.1C° (-72.6°F) measured in Ust Shchugor, Russia in 1978. If it is any comfort it gets even colder in Canada where the record is −63 °C (−81 °F). If that seems really bad then I can tell you that things can get a whole lot worse than that.
Coldest Day On Earth
The coldest temperature measured on Earth since records began was recorded at Vostok Station in Antarctica. The momentous event happened July 21st 1983 when the temperature dropped to an incredible -89.2°C (-128.6 °F). Well that puts everything else into perspective!
What Depth of Cold Can Humans Withstand?
Many people across the world have to live with temperatures as low as -60 °C and they do so by spending as little time outside as possible and by having the right clothing to deal with the elements.
The human body starts to shut down if its core temperature drops below 89 °F and it would not take long to get down there if you stand outside in temperatures as low as -60 °C. At those sorts of levels any exposed areas of skin will feel tight after just a couple of minutes and you will be in immediate danger of frost nip and then Frost Bite.
When the human body gets cold retaining core temperature is imperative otherwise hypothermia will set in. As blood vessels constrict in the cold the body finds it harder and harder to maintain its core temperature and starts shutting down the supply of blood to the extremities in order to protect the core.
The lack of blood warming the tissues causes them to freeze and this is frost bite. In the first instance only the top layer of skin is affected and this is called frost nip. After further exposure the deeper layers of skin become affected and then eventually the muscles, tendons and even blood vessels will freeze.
This will often result in amputation of the effected area as the tissues will have died. At excessively low temperatures the human body does not take long to succumb to Frost bite and the severe cold can induce several other health issues.
Health Issues in Cold Weather
Cold weather thickens the blood, constricts blood vessels and tightens the airways resulting in more heart attacks and respiratory problems. Your susceptibility to these issues will depend on your age, general fitness and any pre-existing conditions.
The older you are the more you are at risk and so it is, therefore, the elderly who particularly suffer in the cold. The old are also the most vulnerable to hypothermia a condition where the body’s core temperature becomes too low and the body then starts to shut down and eventually die.
Wrap Up Warm
The next time you encounter some cold conditions remember to guard against the elements by wrapping up warm and going outside as little as possible. You are unlikely to have to endure anything as severe as some of the temperatures mentioned here but it doesn’t have to be that cold to be dangerous. There are some occasions on which your ski jacket and snow boots just simply aren’t going to be enough!
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This is a guest post. Sally Stacey is a blogger and business owner who loves action sports. Find out more on Sally’s Google+ profile.