The nippy weather is back in full force this week and many are staying at home by the fireplace/heater. As cold as you may feel, you can be glad that you aren’t stuck in Vostok, Antarctica. Read on for some interesting facts about cold and winter to keep your mind from freezing over.
1. The coldest places – by coldest temperature
- On Earth – Vostok, Antarctica
Lowest recorded temperature: -89.2°C and average ‘highs’ are usually only around -25°C. This research station is situated within the appropriately named Pole of Cold, really!
- In Africa – Ifrane, Morocco
Lowest recorded temperature: -24°C. It is a ski resort and town, so the lower the temperature, the better your skiing experience.
- In Europe – Ust’ Shchugor, Russia
Lowest recorded temperature: -72.6°C. This small rural village consistently has mind-numbingly cold temperatures.
- In South Africa – Buffelsfontein, North West
Lowest recorded temperature: -16°C. Despite its claim, Sutherland is not the coldest place within South Africa, Buffelsfontein is.
2. Body Temperature Debate:
Doctors say that the human body’s average temperature is 36.5°C, but I as a woman do not concur. In my mind, men have a well-built furnace housed inside them, which lets them run around in winter, dressed in t-shirts and shorts, while I’m bundled up in layers and blankets and still shivering. Here are some common theories as to why:
- Lean mass: Men tend to have more lean muscle mass than women do, and lean muscle mass requires more energy to maintain. This means the metabolism is kept high which generates more internal heat.
- Size to heat ratio: Women are generally smaller than men are and as such, generate less heat; men are larger and create more heat.
- Vasoconstriction: When the outside temperature drops, blood supply to the skin is suspended to divert it to the internal organs and keep them warm (you can survive with frostbite, not with internal organ failure). Generally speaking, women are more sensitive to temperature and their bodies automatically enter this state before men’s do (perhaps to protect unborn children). In essence this explains why women’s skin, hands and feet become cold much faster.
- If you’re cold throughout the year, you could have a condition such as anaemia, diabetes 2, hypothyroidism, or Raynaud’s.
3. Winter solstice
The winter solstice occurs in June for the Southern Hemisphere, while it occurs in December for the Northern Hemisphere. The winter solstice is the shortest day, and longest night, of the year and has over 4 hours less sunshine than the longest day of summer. Many ancient cultures observed this date, from the Incans to the Chinese, to the Europeans, and some of them would hold a final celebration feast before the frigid winter months occurred.
4. Feeling SAD?
If cold weather gets you down, to the point of depression and fatigue, you may be experiencing a disorder called SAD (seasonal affective disorder). This condition was only diagnosed in 1984 and it is believed that it is caused by a lack of bright sunlight, long grey days, and cold temperatures. Treatment for this includes exposure to phototherapy (bright lights), and anti-depressants.
5. Fun winter facts
- No two snowflakes are alike, as discovered by Wilson Bentley, who studied over 5000 snowflakes and became the world’s first snowflake expert.
- The term snirt refers to windblown snow and black dirt.
- Fort Keogh in Montana holds the record for having the largest snowflake fall there in 1887. It was 38 centimeters wide and 20 centimeters thick.
- Winter is the best time to go game viewing in South Africa.
- The most over-played winter song worldwide tends to be “Winter Wonderland”, which was written in 1934.
Let us know what your favourite winter past time is, be it curling up in bed with the TV, snuggling in front of a fire with a good book, or cooking together with the family.