Sunday, 10 January 2010

How do they live where it's truly cold?

With the news that even Hell is set to freeze over this weekend, you may well think it's cold enough, thank you, where you live. Personally, I suspect the next article is also a dig at us "pussies" in the west and I think it's interesting that I found it in Spanish (I wonder if they've dared print an English version anywhere), at the BBC Mundo (BBC World) site (via: territoriosred) entitled, "¿Cómo se vive donde de verdad hace frío?" (How do they live where it's truly cold?)

There, the article tells us that while the extreme winter weather in parts of Europe, Asia and the United States is virtually paralysing life for millions of people, in many other places below zero temperatures are routine and people organize things so they can function.

For example: In the northeast of Russia is the village of Oymyakon, commonly cited as the coldest inhabited place on earth. Situated in Siberia - a former destination for exiled politicians - Oymyakon has an average winter temperature of -45 degrees centigrade and holds the record for the coldest temperature recorded in an inhabited place, of -71.2ºC.

There live 500 people. The village has one hotel, with no hot water and an outside toilet.

The children at the only local school faced the same situation until in 2008, when they were able to enjoy the luxury of being able to go to the bathroom without going out in the cold.

And while in western Europe a tiny bit of snow can close schools for several days, in Oymyakon they only close the school if the thermometer registers -52 degrees centigrade.

The majority of the village rely on coal and wood for heating and those few modern conveniences they have, such as mobile phones, if they can find cover, do not work in the extreme cold.

Oymyakon is three days by car from the closest populated centre, Yakutsk, the coldest city on earth. More than 210,000 people live there, under a constant state of permafrost, with temperatures in winter that average at around -40 degrees centigrade.

Nevertheless, the city manages to work. It has two airports, a university, various schools, theatres and a museum. Though it's said people leave their cars running all day and they advise visitors not to go out in the street wearing contact lenses, as they'll freeze on the eyes.

The city is situated on the banks of the river Lena that is sometimes frozen to such an extent that they open it to road traffic.

You call this cold?

After descriptions of other truly cold places, which I won't bore you with, the article continues that in Europe, Scandinavia regularly faces the most extreme cold of the continent and, as such, is well equipped to deal with it. (Yes, the key being that it is regular and so they've adapted.)

Residents who contacted the BBC expressed their surprise (read: they're laughing at us) at seeing images on television news showing the effect that the snow is having in areas unaccustomed to such conditions. And then we're treated to descriptions of them heroically driving, even long distances, perfectly normally (if on winter tyres), in a variety of extreme conditions.

And finally, a German resident asks, "Why do the English have this problem every year?"

We ask the same question ourselves. Why is this weather always a surprise?

(Oh, from my own personal point of view, yes, I do call this cold. After 16 years in a sub-tropical climate, I call anything under +20 degrees centigrade cold. And with fibromyalgia, my muscles, bones and joints all absolutely agree with me and seem unable to reacclimatize.)

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