Polar Vortex

Updated: Dec 26, 2019

Jan 30th, 2019

How cold was it? We experienced the coldest temperatures seen in a generation. In our area, it was around - 30 F with a 60 below wind chill, conditions that could lead to frostbites on exposed skin in as few as five minutes. I didn’t try that out but was prepared for the extreme cold. Warm clothing, emergency kit in the car, checked tire pressure, heating system, pipes etc... Preparation for the winter starts in the fall, like everywhere else.  But in areas with extreme climate, as in Minnesota, the list is longer.

We have been having very cold temperatures since mid-January. A change in the temperature from - 20 F to - 30 F is not very noticeable on the body.  But the arrival of the arctic air brings with it a distinctly different scent. It’s a different smell you experience with warm air. I should say the noticed smell in arctic air is the absence of scent. Arctic air is dry, and scents are enhanced with moisture. When the temperature drops, molecules move more slowly in the air and even slower without humidity. The experience of that fresh crisp, dry air was brilliant.

With the cold came some random booms, known as cryoseism (frost quake). It happens when the underground water freezes and expands, causing the soil to crack under intense pressure. That cracking soil creates a loud "boom." Although, most noises are due to the thermal expansion and contraction of the house which is under the intense pressure from a severe temperature change. To my understanding, weird things can happen when all that material of wood, glass, and metal expand, then shrink from the cold, followed by a “BOOM”. It can be scary if you never experienced it. Today is the last day of the extreme cold air. The polar vortex came with consequences for a lot of people: schools, universities, businesses were closed, no mail delivery, gas supplies interrupted, busted water pipes, stalled cars, car crashes because of black ice …. etc. I was happy I could stay at home. I enjoyed the extreme cold beautiful sunny day, with a deep dark blue sky, glittering white snow and the scent of arctic air. In the evening, our friends Parul and Michael stopped by. Parul is moving and we wished her well. This weekend we are expecting a spring like warm up. It will be a celebration back to normal life but what is normal?


Winter Carnival

In January we had temperatures below zero (Fahrenheit) but not cold enough for the Twin Cities to freeze out Winter Carnival, the “Coolest Celebration on Earth”. The festival started 133 years ago. A New York Times reporter called St. Paul a “Siberia” and questioned why anyone would live here. I can say that Minnesota is beautiful the entire year around (if anything, I could complain about the shortness of spring). It is the land of 10,000 lakes with a diverse state parks system, with more than 227,000 acres in 75 parks and recreation areas, and over 1,000 miles of hiking trails. Besides, there are nearly 500 companies here, including Target, General Mills, Best Buy, Medtronic, 3M, etc. Minnesota has 80 colleges and Universities. So, it’s no surprise that we recognized the opportunities and call Minnesota our home. Yes, you have to like the four seasons and you better love winter. The Saint Paul Winter Carnival is a Celebration of Winter with live entertainment, snow sculptures, ice carving, music and beverages at the ice bar. A walk through the ice sculpture garden is a winter highlight for me every year. Winter by itself is a unique artist which creates wonderful patterns and sculptures. I have summarized some winter photos in the following link: https://www.christinekarim.com/winter-love

Happy winter greetings to you.

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