Alaska January 12, 2018
13 Weird Things That Happen Only In Alaska When It’s Really Cold
Extreme cold is a remarkable feature of Alaska and the deep freezes can lead to some surprises. People who move north and have their first extreme winter will learn to adapt in all kinds of ways for the weather, but after the initial shock, the season becomes much more bearable. However, the intense cold, like the blazing desert sun, is a force to be reckoned with and must always be taken seriously. Here are some weird, and often inconvenient, things that happen when it’s really cold out.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Lenses fog up.
The air trapped inside the lenses of cameras freezes up and ice crystals become visible. When the lenses get frosty, you have a harder time getting the shot, unless you embrace the effect. Fogging eyeglasses can also be a pain as water from your breath freezes to them in no time.
2. Kids are stuck inside.
When it's colder than 20 below zero, Elementary school students across Alaska don't get to go out and play in the cold. Children need one more layer for the temperatures than the adults with them as their little bodies have a harder time the extreme cold. Schools are filled with pent up energy when recess is in the classroom.
3. Frozen tires.
Normal winter cold temperatures, the moderate 32 above zero to 10 below zero, make cars cranky when they start. But extreme cold can mean your tires freeze flat to the ground. Even if you can get them rolling, the flat side can make a weird, rocky ride.
Parhelion is a bright spot in the sky appearing on either side of the sun, formed by refraction of sunlight through ice crystals high in the earth's atmosphere. These bright, sometimes rainbow orbs of light, hover in the sky when it's icy and give Alaska a very otherworldy feel.
5. The dogs have to wear booties.
When temperatures drop too low, the doggies get cold, even with the phenomenal paws of Alaskan sled dogs that are designed for the cold. The bright flash of neon booties may be the only thing you see as a dog team flashes by on the trail.
6. Extension cords become priceless.
In very cold climates, cars are "winterized" with heaters that warm oil pans, batteries, and engine blocks to get them to start in the frigid temperatures. This requires cars to be plugged in for several hours to thaw when the temperatures dip. The colder it gets, the more valuable your extension cords becomes. Cords astronomically grow in value and they can be "borrowed" any time, leaving your car unable to start and the culprit long gone in their toasty car.
7. Cabin fever.
When the temperatures drop to 40-60 below zero, nonessential travel ceases and those who have to drive somewhere crawl along to minimize car trouble including snapped belts and flat tires. Everyone stays put and every board game and book you've been meaning to read comes out of hiding.
8. It's hard to recognize anyone.
With layer and layers of warm gear, faces, hands, and bodies are so covered up it is hard to tell who is who. But, it's much better to be warmly dressed than to risk frostbite that can set in almost immediately on bare flesh at these temperatures.
9. Frost beards.
Any exposed facial hair, including eyebrows and eyelashes, can get a layer of frost from your breath as you walk in the cold air. It melts easily when you wipe your face or go inside, and it isn't painful, but sometimes looks very funny.
10. The dreaded inversion layer.
At very cold temperatures, the air close to the ground is colder and the temperature increases as you rise through the atmosphere. This traps air pollutants close to the ground and makes the air quality sometimes dangerously bad for people to breathe.
11. Ice fog.
The term "ice fog" refers to a phenomenon that occurs at 40 below zero and colder. When humidity is high enough, the water in the air forms ice crystals. These crystals form around particles from car exhaust and other pollutants and become trapped in the air. Air quality can be dangerously full of particulates for breathing and warnings are issued to affected communities to stay inside and avoid breathing the freezing, polluted air.
12. The snow birds migrate south.
Many Alaskan communities have "Snow Bird" residents that only stay in Alaska during the summer months. Even more leave just for the long winter break from school to soak up some vitamin D anywhere warm. By the time the frigid cold seeps in, many residents have already left for the winter. Dreaming of beaches can lead to checking how many frequent flier miles you have to escape the brutal cold.
13. Boiling water vaporizes instantly in the air.
If you aren’t tired of the cold yet, check out
The Coldest Place On Planet Earth Is Located Right Here In Alaska. Or take a road trip in 6 Amazing Alaska Glaciers You Can Drive Right Up To.
Have you experienced 40 below zero temperatures? Tell us about it in the comments below.