Now that’s cold!

How cold was it in Chicago yesterday? With the wind chill, it was  -40, which happens to be the one temperature at which Farenheit and Celsius measures coincide.

It was so cold, in fact, that they had to bring the polar bears inside at the Lincoln Park Zoo. As Rebecca Boyle notes on Eek Squad:

“In Chicago we’re accustomed to weather extremes, with very cold winters and very hot summers, so the animals that are part of our zoo are chosen for their hardiness for winter or summer,” [public relations director Sharon] Dewar says. “But this is obviously an excessive extreme. So even animals that are pretty hardy, and would be able to stay outside for normal winters — like the Mongolian camels and polar bear — even those animals we’re keeping indoors.”

I’ll just repeat that: It’s so cold in Chicago, the polar bear is inside.

Thank Ceiling Cat that it’s been balmy in Poland. I got out at just the right time.

h/t: Matthew Cobb


  1. Michael Fisher
    Posted January 7, 2014 at 1:42 am | Permalink

    VIDEO of Anana [the only Lincoln Park, Chicago polar bear] swimming 20 second underwater laps of her enclosure in Summer last year. Beautiful animal. Sad situation.

  2. Dominic
    Posted January 7, 2014 at 2:37 am | Permalink

    I would LOVE that cold! The cold weather there is bringing the British Isles a lot of storms & rain.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted January 7, 2014 at 6:46 am | Permalink

      We had a blizzard last night with the cold and had to clear the driveway several times because of drifting snow. We also had ice storms just before Xmas that knocked out power for many people who had to go to warming centres. You don’t get to have cold weather and no storms….it’s forbidden somehow. 🙂

    • JBlilie
      Posted January 7, 2014 at 6:50 am | Permalink

      I doubt that you would enjoy it. -40°C/F is brutal. Your skins freezes in seconds. There is nothing whatever pleasant about it.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted January 7, 2014 at 7:11 am | Permalink

        Not to mention what happens to your poor nostrils!

  3. JohnnieCanuck
    Posted January 7, 2014 at 3:13 am | Permalink

    For most wild polar bears right now, -40º with wind chill is as good as it gets.

    That’s not to say it’s comfortable for the animal, so sure, they should be inside. Perhaps a nice balmy -10ºC?

    • musubk
      Posted January 8, 2014 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

      That’s what I was thinking. I wish they would have explained why they felt it was too cold for the animals, because it definitely gets colder than that in their natural range.

  4. Posted January 7, 2014 at 4:22 am | Permalink


    • Posted January 7, 2014 at 4:23 am | Permalink

      Mind you, if the air is dry and there is no wind, -35 is no big deal, I experienced that regularly during our winter and spring holidays up in the Alps, and in Afghanistan and Sweden.

      • Posted January 7, 2014 at 5:28 am | Permalink

        Well the point is that if the temperature is -12 and the windchill is -40, there is quite a lot of wind. That is cold enough to cause frostbite in any exposed skin within minutes.

        • Posted January 7, 2014 at 5:40 am | Permalink

          That is why I specified “no wind”. In Kabul, in the 1971-1972 winter (the coldest they had had in 25 years), when the temperature was -35 but there was no wind and the air was dry, one could go out wearing just a T-shirt when the sun shone.

          • JBlilie
            Posted January 7, 2014 at 6:57 am | Permalink

            If there is no air motion at all, then your body can maintain that little layer of air around it that ISN’T actually at -35°C; but much, much warmer (with help from your body hair).

            The smallest amount of air motion (whether you are moving or the air is), however, and exposed skin is subjected to the full cooling effects of that very cold air and it becomes very unpleasant.

            I doubt you were skiing down-hill in the Alps at -35°C in a T-shirt.

            • Posted January 7, 2014 at 7:19 am | Permalink

              I never said that I wore T-shirts in the Alps. I did wear T-shirts in Kabul in such temperatures, though, when the sun was shining. I felt cold, but not uncomfortably so.

          • darrelle
            Posted January 7, 2014 at 7:01 am | Permalink

            Nearly perfect skiing weather. My perfect ski day is 0 to -10 F, clear skies and no wind.

  5. gbjames
    Posted January 7, 2014 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    Yeah… like that here in MKE, too.

  6. Bethany
    Posted January 7, 2014 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    Captive polar bears, being fed on fish instead of seal, often have less blubber than their wild counterparts as well. This serves them very well in summer, but means that in cold like this, inside they must go.

  7. Diana MacPherson
    Posted January 7, 2014 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    I woke up to -25 C today. Ahhhh, brisk!

  8. JBlilie
    Posted January 7, 2014 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    Yesterday: -31°C air temp. approx. -46°C wind chill
    Today: -30°C, WC not nearly so bad, about -34°C

    Out HIGH temp yesterday was -24°C

    Just damned cold.

    However, we expect to go above 0°C by Saturday, so there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

    I do NOT like this weather. 😦

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted January 7, 2014 at 7:12 am | Permalink

      The nice thing is there is sunshine today. Yesterday with the blizzards it was overcast but today it is lovely clear skies!

  9. darrelle
    Posted January 7, 2014 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    I once experienced -40. My car overheated. I checked the coolant level only to find that there was green jello in my radiator.

    So I started walking. I was in 60s era US Air Force issue Arctic Flight Line gear. At first I thought I would be fine, then I had to turn into the wind. That was when I started to get worried. It was very hard to see because my eye lashes kept freezing together from tearing and blinking, and I had a revelation about just what the oft heard, but not really understood, phrase “the cold cut through like a knife” means. This was about 4-6 hours into a storm that dropped 70 inches (178 cm) of snow in 24 hours.

    Lucky for me some kind soul in a properly outfitted 4 x 4, who was out looking for idiots like me, picked me up and gave me a ride home.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted January 7, 2014 at 7:21 am | Permalink

      Once when I was a student, I tried to hit frozen slush off my car’s mud flaps at -20C or so. It split the mud flap. Then I tried to scrap ice with my plastic scraper and hit something accidentally – the scraper shattered.

      I just gave up & drove home.

      • darrelle
        Posted January 7, 2014 at 7:50 am | Permalink

        Sounds like a reasonable decision. Go home, drink hot cocoa.

  10. Posted January 7, 2014 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    I keep trying to tell everybody that temperatures just don’t go negative, what with that being a physical impossibility and all, but nobody ever listens. And all this stuff about F and C being equal at some given temperature — nonsense! Everybody knows that C is about a third of F; no need for any fancy math at terrestrial-scale temperatures.

    It’s been getting down to the mid-40s here overnight, and that’s cold. Can’t imagine what it must be like in those arctic regions where it makes it down to the 20s, or even teens — that’s when you turn into a popsicle within 37 seconds unless you’re wrapped in five layers of electric blankets, right?



    • Hempenstein
      Posted January 7, 2014 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

      -40C = -40F

      And I understand that the Japanese term for these conditions is “samui”, pronounced something like sahm-wee.

      • Posted January 7, 2014 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

        Heresy, again I say! Blasphemy!

        Negative temperatures are as impossible as virgins giving birth, square roots of negative numbers, and cats undeserving of a warm sunny spot on the bed on cold winter days.

        I know not where this conspiracy to convince people of the alleged reality of negative temperatures comes from, but it is of the most pernicious and evil variety.

        Hmpf. Negative temperatures, indeed. Why, next thing you know, you’ll be trying to tell me that you can make liquid air.


        • JBlilie
          Posted January 7, 2014 at 2:19 pm | Permalink


    • Dave
      Posted January 7, 2014 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

      Oh, Ben Goren, hoo, hoo, ha ha. Please stop. I can’t stand it splitting a gut reading your stuff up here in Minneapolis where yesterday the wind chill was -50F (yes, I said MINUS fucking 50; I had no idea you were such an absolutist!) and the temp bottomed out at -(note minus sign)32 C, by advanced math. You just wait for May/June when the temps down there climb to 100, 105, 110 F and see what sympathy you get while we up here luxuriate in 70, 75 F! BTW, Phoenix is the only place I’ve ever been spritzed – automatically no less – in an outdoor cafe; made me feel like a cabbage in the supermarket. Also, Phoenix is the only place I’ve been in a couple decades where my hotel did NOT ask me to help conserve water?!? What’s up with that!

      • Posted January 7, 2014 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

        Oh, May is loverly with the regular flirtation with 100° highs, and June is great summertime weather with it mostly staying in the lower triple digits. July gets a tad warm; above 110° is common, but even that’s not so bad. It’s generally never more than several days that it starts to get slightly uncomfortable — say, much over 115° — and truly hot weather (120°+) is as unusual as the deep freeze the rest of the country is in right now.

        August…August tends to suck, since the temperatures are around the same level as July, but the Monsoon season brings humidity. 110° with 50%+ humidity is no picnic. But the good news is that, whenever it gets really bad in August, we almost always get a storm within a day or so to give everything a wonderfully thick coating of caked-on dust. Woo-hoo!

        Local attitudes towards water conservation are problematic, I’ll admit. We have way too many golf courses, too much big agriculture (did you know that there’re more roses grown in Arizona than I think anywhere else in the States? not to mention all the citrus and cotton — cotton!), and too many private swimming pools and lawns. We’re sucking dry not just the Colorado River, but local aquifers faster than they’re being replenished, such that we’re going to be in deep shit in coming decades if we don’t do something about it yesterday.



  11. George
    Posted January 7, 2014 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    The cold is over the entire country other than the Pacific Coast and southern Florida. Unfortunately, we have all learned about the “polar vortex” – which has reached all the way down to Atlanta. It has warmed up today in Chicago – to -1F (-19C). On Friday, temperature is supposed to get above freezing – 32F (0C).

    • Rob
      Posted January 7, 2014 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, I meant to post a link to a picture. Oh well.

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