Arctic chill at 85F below zero – So cold, Eskimos advised to stay inside!

‘Some of the coldest temperatures that people have ever experienced’

From Churchill polar bears:

Arctic Weather Brrrrreaking Records

Rankin Inlet in a deep freeze of -60C (-76F) a couple of days ago. Susan Enuaraq photo.

Rankin Inlet, Nunavut gets cold in the winter. Located on the northwestern shore of the Hudson Bay at 62 degrees north and between Chesterfield Inlet and Arviat, the town is definitely in a remote yet exposed region. Weather is just a part of life and recently the weather has been colder than cold.

Schools in the south get “snow days” though when you get to the 60-degree latitudes school closures are “cold days”…usually accompanied by some snow as well. When temperatures fall to -60C with the windchill or more than just about everyone will stay home and not risk going outside and expose skin. For the past few days, schools have cautiously remained closed.

“I don’t remember the last time we actually closed due to weather. This is a bit of an extreme,” said Mike Osmond, chair of the Rankin Inlet District Education Authority.

Temperatures are getting to –40 C (-40F) before the windchill and when the winds are factored in, it feels colder than –60 C (-76F).

“You’ve got blustery winds with some of the coldest temperatures that people have ever experienced,” said David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada, adding that his charts say skin freezes in two minutes at –55 C.(-67F)

Windchill was expected to reach above -65C (-85F) in the past couple of days and we are watching the area closely to see how the community fairs with the dangerous cold.

Blame for the almost 15 degrees colder than normal temperatures is being placed on the polar vortex, a combination of an aggressive weather system and frigid air temperatures.

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Elders in the Arviat and Rankin region are advising native hunters to remain home until the chill breaks. Living on the land in the past didn’t have this luxury as they had to scavenge for food in even the most dangerous conditions. Grocery stores in these communities of nearly 2,500 people now allow for a community to survive the winter and feel secure in the far north. These towns in the remote northern region do pay high prices for this luxury but there is no other way to survive as a flourishing community.

However, now that people can go to the grocery store, they don’t have to risk their lives hunting in extreme temperatures. Replacing cultural traditions, however, can sometimes be hard for natives to the region used to living off the land and some have gotten themselves into risky situations.

December through February is the coldest time of the year in Rankin Inlet and the urge to get outdoors is always there. However, for many just relaxing inside until the treacherous temperatures rise is sometimes a matter of life or death!


129 thoughts on “Arctic chill at 85F below zero – So cold, Eskimos advised to stay inside!

      • And how hard you spit as velocity/time would be a factor. I guess that if you were very short and spit fast the above would not be true.
        CN,Spit sceptic.

    • I have tried that at -57C in Dawson YT. A proper luger does not freeze, spray spit does. It is however interesting to urinate on ice at that temp. It sizzles and cracks the ice and creates a lot of fog. It then freezes in less than 10 seconds. At -40 it is still possible to accomplish some outdoor work. at -45 it takes longer to set up for a job then there is time in the day and at -50 everything stops, everything. I took off my mittens and gloves ( two layers ) for a few seconds at 57 below, it felt like razor cuts on my hands. Even the ravens stop moving and sit on top of telephone poles as big black balls of fluff.

      • My brother worked on the “Alaskan pipeline” project back in the day, and he told me on a particularly cold day he stumbled backward into the water (slush on the surface) of Prudhoe Bay . . He freaked out, and “levitated” as he put it, out of the water, thinking he had a very short time to get out of his heavy clothes, and he was not near any shelter or vehicle at the moment . . Turned out he was fine, and as he moved the thin layer of ice that had immediately formed on contact with his way below zero clothing’s exterior, shattered and fell off, leaving him still dry and “warm” inside.

      • “I guess what we do for entertainment in extremely cold temperatures changes”
        I dunno. I’ve been in a hot tub at -40C. Only problem was that the steam would freeze in our hair, and you had to be reasonably quick at running between the house and the tub when nearly naked.

      • I recall spit hitting roofing sheet and rolling down it like a marble at -28C (Welsh mountain location winter early ’80s). Judging by the values in F above, it may have been much lower. At least they didn’t start the proverbial pi$$ing on a tin roof, and we got out of there real quick.

      • Bill McCarter wrote:
        “I have tried that at -57C in Dawson YT. A proper luger does not freeze, spray spit does. It is however interesting to urinate on ice at that temp. It sizzles and cracks the ice and creates a lot of fog. It then freezes in less than 10 seconds.”
        A word of advice Bill – if you are urinating outdoors at minus 57C you better do so quickly – or you might get frostbite where it really hurts, or even freeze the tip solid and snap it off.
        It is actually warm in Calgary right now – plus 3C at 4am – I’d go outside and bask in the Sun, but it’s still dark.
        Pause and think about the Inuit and the northern explorers like my kinsman John Rae, who discovered the Northwest Passage. These men traveled outdoors for months in the dead of winter – they survived by hunting and created their own shelter by building igloos. These were real men, incredibly tough and self-reliant.
        I was raised by such men – gentle and kind, but tough as nails – “the Greatest Generation”. My Uncle Don, who was the only surviving officer of the Essex Scottish Regiment at Dieppe in 1942 and rescued most of the surviving men, and my dad, who ran half of the largest explosives plant in the British Empire during WW2, who had 3000 men reporting to him when he was only 26 years of age, and did not lose a man during the entire war. Real men – incredibly talented, tough, and kind.
        It is difficult to reconcile their remarkably hardy achievements with the uber-delicate “snowflakes” of today, who are deeply traumatized by the slightest slight, and claim PTSD when their cappuccino is delivered at less-than-perfect temperature.

    • I have had received an observation that it was 6 degrees C in Houston Texas this morning:)

    • The Mainers call it 25 and 25. When it’s 25 below zero (F) and the wind is 25 mph, if you spit into the wind, it will freeze and crack before it hits the ground. I have tried it, it actually happens.
      I had a month in Iowa in the early 80s that was -25 almost every night (lowest was -31) and not above zero during the day. It was brutal. Car dashboards split from shrinkage. I had an electric heating element mounted in my engine block, which made life so much better.

      • @higley7, they are called block heaters and are pretty much standard issue in every car sold in Canada.

      • Went to school in Iowa, for two years, 1965 and 1966 (Winters)..We went down to -31 on two nites. One week, the high was -7 f. We would call a number for the morning temperature and weather report (Set up for the farmers), and get the Emergency updates. Our little town had an Emergency system that had been in place for decades, before the automobile. Every other street had a house with a yellow light on it’s porch. That was the “Safe” house. If for any reason you were caught outside, day or night, and were in any potential danger, that house had food, phone, drink and warmth, and often someone who could jump start a cold,dead battery or do some minor repairs , 24-7. The house duty would rotate every one or two days, by agreement. Great little communities with the most wonderful people. We sledded on food trays for fun, and did the traditional throwing of hot water into the air to see how long it took to freeze.. Not long!!

    • But that’s 80N. Rankin Inlet is at 62N. Balmy in Norway.
      Besides, -40C is nothing, it is the wind that makes it bad.

      • I agree, -40 in still air isn’t too bad if you are dressed for it. However even a moderate breeze at those temperatures can be quite dangerous.

      • Long johns and good fur mittens, with bomber fur hat. Many layers and thick boots. You’ll be OK. But in areas where trees don’t grow, the wind is horrible. Don’t play with cold, it really kills drunken girls and boys.
        OTOH, it’s twenty years we last had -30C. With inversion it is also quite local, and always with still air.

      • When skiing, I like to go to the top of the mountain, as there are so few who will venture the conditions. Dressed properly, and maybe a little brandy, and you can ski all day and never see a line at the lift. Oh, it’s also a gorgeous view, constantly.

      • Indeed. Out of curiosity, I once walked home from school (half a mile) at -50 F in my shirt sleeves. Dead calm. Half way home my ears got cold and I put my earmuffs on. Three quarters home, my hands got cold and I put my gloves on. But I arrived home with only one thin layer of cotton clothing as my top clothing.
        For actual work outdoors, -30 C is the breakpoint between carrying on fairly normally, and spending a lot of time rewarming hands and so forth.
        [Those of us mods who work in civilized climates consider 70 F just about right for working outside “fairly normally” …. .mod]

    • But it’s weather – this is only weather – weather weather weather – this has nothing to do with climate – at least that’s what all the Warmunistas are saying…

      • But that’s what WUWT is saying. From above: “Weather is just a part of life and recently the weather has been colder than cold.” A few days of unusual weather at Rankin Inlet has nothing to do with climate.
        If you want to see some evidence of the climate changing take a look at Toneb’s post of the ice extent graph below: a glaringly obvious, multi-decade trend. But it is far more convenient to talk about the weather, especially during winter.

      • zazove,
        The Artic ice extent is one of the saddest confirmation biases. True, it has been going down, and no, I have low confidence that will continue. The Arctic winter is long and cold. Once decadal oscillation allows, the retreat will be tested for real.

    • With open water in the Arctic temperatures swing from “marine” to land mass temps. The Arctic ice pack is still fairly reduced but it is getting much thicker than a few years ago. Thick ice lasts longer and provides a base for future pack ice to build from. Ice extent is now in a slow building phase which will be accompanied by much colder winter temperatures. The big multi-year freeze is upon us!

    • Get real. No time.
      Justin and his family are too booked-up using billionaire’s private jets to go to Bahamas and the Caribbean.

    • Probably too cold for the cameras to work but if they do, just turn them on and he will magically appear! Perhaps his sunny smile is the cause of some warming. Question is, where is that sun shining out from?

  1. Sorry, folks, 62 North isn’t Arctic – got to go above 66+ North to be in the Arctic. But this is really cold. And one could assume that temperatures are even colder than at 62 North. But that is an unfounded assumption.

  2. Question. Are grocery stores in such locales considered unsustainable living by the refined policy makers and deciders in advocacy land?

  3. It can’t possibly be that cold as the Arctic is blisteringly warm these days.
    So how can Blisteringly warm Arctic air come down in the Polar Vortex and cause such low Temperatures?
    Maybe those “Calculated” Arctic Temperatures are not quite as accurate as the AGW crowd like to believe.

    • I wonder how much it freezes and how much it only evaporates because the air is so dry and warming it drops its RH to very very near to zero. Nice pic, though.

      • I think freezing gives about 330 units of heat and evaporation takes 2260 units, so less than 15 percent of hot water evaporates. Some water may be left and some heat is used to warm the cold air, so I can’t just calculate it.

      • The warm water warms the air around it, and that air is superdry at start, so I’m pretty certain on evaporative cooling being more impressive than what one would expect. I think there is a way to measure he evaporation, so this is not just theory. But as I said, it can’t be much more than the 15 percent, unless a large amount of air is being warmed up.

      • The amount of evaporation depends on the relative humidity of the air. Some moisture will be absorbed into the air as it also warms the air and increases its absolute humidity. It will thereafter freeze back out of the air as tiny ice crystals or “ice fog”.

      • John, thanks for saying that! In the end, most evaporated water has recondensed and frozen to fog we see. Will need to redo the calculation with some accuracy some day.

      • Ha! Today’s paper has a story on this. They say it only works when the water is almost boiling, because only boiling water evaporates enough to condense immediately into small droplets that can freeze quickly. Cold water just drops. Unfortunately they didn’t give threshold temperatures where this starts to work. I’m forced to hope we’ll get a good -40°C nearby so I can check myself. There was a demo at -47°C.
        I think the key really is water warming the surrounding air dropping its RH very low, making quick evaporation – condensation – freeze cycle possible.

    • BTW, the use of tea is smart. Tea likely provides sub-micron nucleation particles so it freezes the water faster. It would be an interesting experiment to use different solutes.

  4. There is the 30-30-30 rule.

    If the temperature is -30 F.
    and the wind is 30 mph
    exposed skin freezes in 30 sec.

    If the tip of your nose or your cheek freezes, you won’t notice it because it’s painless. You need a buddy to send you inside. Thawing out can be quite painful.
    If you know what you’re doing and you have the right equipment, you can work outside at quite cold temperatures. If the Eskimos are staying inside, it’s because their equipment has reached its limits. I suspect that the ‘right’ equipment would look a lot like a space suit.

    • Rode an open ski lift in -25F and my wife froze the tip of her nose. As you said, she didn’t even notice. I had to tell her. It was white as could be. Told her to cover her entire face, but noooo, messes up the makeup! That was 35 years ago, she’s much better about such things now. And remember, -84F is still 208.15K. Doesn’t sound so cold that way.

    • The best cold weather clothing is still caribou skin. Everything equal to or more technological than a zipper fails below -40.

  5. Cue the “weather isn’t climate” and “extreme weather is predicted to become more frequent due to global warming/climate change, which is consistent with this event.”

  6. Why this obsession with wind chill? Weather/climate should focus on temperature. I realize wind chill is important for the kiddies going to school (I don’t think the polar bears care!). Over the last several years I have noticed our local TV weather reporters often lead with wind chill, and as an afterthought mention the actual temperature.

    • Media people love those big numbers, It does not matter whether is is temperature or wind chill.
      Similarly they love talking about disasters due to global warming rather than noting “weather events”.

    • When the wind speed exceeds the temperature you’ll know how important it is if you’re out in it particularly if there is much humidity.

      • Did you actually read my post? Weather/climate deals with temp. I know chill is important for the kiddies (acknowledged that in my post). This is a climate blog, is it not?

    • Ken, I thoroughly agree. It really irks me. It’s just an excuse for another scary weather/climate model, i.e. the formula for temperature+wind -> wind chill. How do we know the model is correct? Yeah, I know, I should trust meteorologists to get that right, if right can even be defined.

  7. It’s true that, in Alaska, we get about $1000 revenue sharing check each year. However, for us living in Fairbanks, our 2200 sf house with 5 star plus energy rating, costs us $500-$650 per month during the winter for heating oil (we have no natural gas and in addition, are outlawed to burn any solid fuels -wood, pellets, coal- during cold weather because of PM2.5 pollution).

    • Jerry
      My sympathies about the ban on “solid fuels”. That is amazingly ignorant. The PM2.5 emissions from solid fuels are no different from liquid fuels: they are dependent on the quality and suitability of the combustor. Try putting some diesel into the tank of your gasoline engined car to see what happens.
      Regulations should, like New Zealand, be based on performance, not fuel type. New Zealand was the first and most sensible: wood is banned in some urban areas unless the system can meet a stringent emissions profile, which is rather easily done with a pellet furnace. The reason for the ‘fuel type’ ban is the EPA and their simplistic approach to air pollution. Silly billies.
      Unfortunately for other countries, their own versions of the EPA are often influenced by the US EPA and this stupidity is being copied across the world. It is interesting but unfortunate how a stupid misunderstanding gets a foothold, it keeps on being replicated. Smoke-free burning of coal and wood has been possible since the late 1680’s.
      For those interested, see the Alliance for Green Heat and their stove competitions, and the upcoming contest for stoves that produce nearly no smoke at all and also generate electricity coming to the Mall in Washington in a few weeks. One of the clean burning winners last time was a downdraft pellet stove that generated 50 Watts.

  8. Having just returned last week to sub-zero Waterloo (43.3 Deg N) from wa-a-ay sub-zero Ulaanbaatar (47.8 Deg N) I read the Nunavut numbers with some appreciation. Ulaanbaatar is a city in a valley where it might be warmer than the surrounding countryside (so I am assured by denizens). The worst day I experienced in the past few weeks was -44 with a wind and a claimed ‘feels like’ of -59 C.
    I can tell you that stepping outside the door of the hotel and into a wind that flipped my scarf off was a daily trial. You absolutely have to have a scarf or your face is finished.
    I will repeat my story about Yakutia: It was -68 C four weeks ago tomorrow. Here is the photo of the girl with the freezing eyelashes:
    The article doesn’t mention that there were 6 deaths that week and 70 people were admitted to hospital for amputations for frostbite. One man’s car broke down and he lost both hands and feet trying to fix it.
    One poster on this list noted that the whole of Canada and the whole of Russia was below freezing last week. Nothing would be better than being 20 degrees above instead of below normal.

  9. Meanwhile, here in 82F Venice Florida, sipping a cool Arnold Palmer in shorts and t-shirt in the shade of my palm trees, I again wonder why people still don’t understand that warmer is better.

    • You poor man! Is there any assistance program available to help you escape that awful global warming? Perhaps you should call Justin T and see if you can leg it up to safety here in Western Canada as a climate refugee. It is presently around -30C. I here people in your country can only afford short pants! Tragic!

  10. Have these people reporting these figures never been to Irkutsk in Yakutia? It is frequently -90F there in the winter. No point in declaring the wind chill, just getting a breath of fresh air when it’s that cold can freeze your lungs. People there wear a LOT of fur – real fur, not the fake fur, none of that “sorry PETA’ stuff.
    I think the worst I’ve even been through was in 1985 in Chicago. You want to talk about a spike hair do? I washed my hair, took the trash out, and my hair froze into spikes in less time than it takes to talk about it. Both stupid and funny. The temperature that day was -25F, coldest I’ve ever seen it, and the wind chill was recorded as -85F. I went out later to try to start my car. It groaned once, and I decided to wait until spring to see if it would start ever again. That was a rather chilly day here in the northern midwest.
    Most modern homes are not built with keeping rooms any more although that’s changing. The keeping room was a room connected to the kitchen in Colonial times, where a very large fireplace was located, partly for the purpose of roasting meat and baking. If there was a winter cold spell, people gathered in the keeping room to keep warm. I think I’d build a house this way, if I ever get to that point.

    • Sara, there is a town in northern Minnesota named Grygla. That is the sound your car makes (once, very softly) when you try to start it at -40. Grygla, as I recall, is not far from Ball Club, named after a different time of year.

  11. A few days of this weather should just about take care of the polar bear’s lack of sea ice problem as well as the permafrost melt catastrophe.

      • The total snow mass for the NH is currently above the peak of the 1982-2012 average snow mass range.
        Yet we still have nearly a month to go before we reach that peak. So one of the things to watch this year will be the NH spring snow extent. lf we have a other well above the trend line snow extent like we had last spring. Then this will be the first time its happened since the 90’s.

      • Because arctic air has been pushed south further than is normal. Over a wider area than is usual. At the junction of cold/warm there will be snow.

    • Note the Toneb-chart has a lower (y value) of 13,000,000 !
      Further, it is not the ice in January or September that matters.
      It is having adequate but not too thick ice in the spring that is important.
      If the ice gets too thick the seals and the bears will have issues.

    • A few days of this weather should just about take care of the polar bear’s lack of sea ice problem as well as the permafrost melt catastrophe

      You got it pretty much upside down. Cold at Hudson Bay means the spring ice is too thick for polar bears. Few days make no difference. The temperature is not actually very low, but wind chill is.
      Toneb got it wrong also. Lack of sea ice, or its decadal retreat as part of oscillation at the Barents Sea and Spitzbergen has little to do with how polar bears are doing.

  12. Propane or bottle gas quits flowing at -40F or so depending on how full your tank is.
    We used to keep big bags of charcoal on hand to warm the tank and thaw out the crankcase on the truck to get it started.
    Oh BTW, This was at the cabin up to the lake in Northern Minnesota, around by Walker on Leech doncha know.

  13. thankyou tonyb, for showing us again a graph starting near the last deepest cold point of the cool cycle. That was when folk similar to you were pushing their ‘we’re all going to freeze’ climageddon claims. Shows just how wrong you can be, eh!
    In fact, we are in a Quiet sun period now, and all bets are off.

    • Keep up Brett. John from above is way ahead of you, he thinks
      “Ice is getting thicker and older. Long term cooling is underway.”
      Seems like a fair statement looking at that graph.

  14. The test that we need to use to determine if we are starting an ice age (glaciation) or even a mini ice age is not is it cold snowy and icy at sixty degrees latitude north in winter, it is always cold then and it is not even very warm there in spring. The snow and ice has to survive summer and persist through to the next winter at sixty degrees latitude north to cause an albedo effect and we are not seeing that yet.

  15. Is there any way we can get the spelling mistakes corrected in the article?
    Fairs should be fare.
    Than should be then,

  16. Could you please EDUCATE yourself if your talking specifically about a group- They are Inuit not Eskimo. The term Eskimo is derogative.

    • No. Not really. Derivation: “via French Esquimaux, possibly from Spanish esquimao, esquimal, from Montagnais ayas̆kimew ‘person who laces a snowshoe,’ probably applied first to the Micmac and later to the Eskimo”.
      What do they call us, in their native language? Are you going to forbid it?
      I hate political correctness, especially when it imagines hate where no hate exists.

  17. It will be interesting to see if the Northwest Passage is passable this coming summer. That cold just sat in that area for around two weeks. I’ll bet the ice is getting thick.
    The NAO is suppose to now plunge, which could bring all that cold south. I don’t want it. It’s nice and mild in New England at the moment, and we could reach sixty (F) tomorrow. But the pattern seems loopy (meridional) world wide, with flips in temperature, and the cold getting far to the south. That bitter cold in in the east of USA in late December and early January made it all the way to Central America, not with freezes, but with cool rains that stunted their banana crop, so we are seeing a banana shortage in our supermarkets now.

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