NASA and NSDIC recently pinpointed the coldest place on earth, a blistering -137F (-94C). Apparently, at temperatures that cold, one has to be careful not to freeze part of one’s throat or lungs while breathing. While breathing. Now, that’s cold.
But what is cold to you?
This is not an objective question. To my Aussie friends, I was considered mad for wearing shorts throughout the (in my opinion) temperate Brisbane winter, which got down a bit below 0C (32F) only a few times during the night. I was also considered insane for visiting Tasmania in the heart of winter (August) and climbing Mt. Wellington with nothing but a sweatshirt for warmth.
When I visited Colombia in January, the balmy 50F (12C) weather led me to wear shorts and t-shirts and instantly marked me as a foreigner. All of the locals were dressed in poofy down coats and long pants.
I’m a warmth loving person. I adore summer and the tropics, so I’m a big fan of heat (not that Heat). But I also seem to have a pretty high cold tolerance. I run outdoors throughout the winter (even though I have had frostbite before). I have done field work in -30F (-34C), when little dark-eyed juncos huddled for warmth in conifers and looked down on me in pity.
To me, anything below freezing is technically “cold” but not necessarily unpleasant. Anything between 10-30F (-12-0C) is tolerable and does not hinder outdoor activity. 0-10F (-18 to -12C) can be rough but tolerable for runs of about an hour or cross country skiing (anything where I am exerting myself except cycling where wind chill is a significant factor).
Below 0 F is just COLD and it’s hard work not to get frostbite or otherwise hurt myself while being active outdoors. I know that people in the nether regions of the north regularly tolerate temperatures of -60 or -70F (-57C), but I don’t think it would be good running weather!
The glass-liquid transition (where plastics effectively turn to glass) for polypropoylene (commonly used in plastic parts) is -20C (-4F). At that stage, I have had the lights on my bike shatter, the cord connecting my earbuds to my music player crumble to pieces, and my jacket crack. So that seems pretty cold.
What’s “cold” to you?