I cannot recall many winters as cold as this one. This winter started with a lot of snowstorms in December of 2018 and then in January we got more snow and the temperatures here in Northern Ontario dropped to more than 30 below zero and more like minus 40 taking wind chill into account. Many Elders I know tell me that they do not remember this kind of extreme cold for many consecutive days and such huge snowfalls since the 1960s and 70s.
As someone who was born and raised in the very far north of Attawapiskat on James Bay I am familiar with cold winters but this one tops them all as far as I am concerned. I notice the extreme cold when I venture outside to start up my truck. The only reason my vehicle starts is because I have the engine block heater and battery warmer plugged in to electricity. Otherwise there is a good chance at minus 30 degrees the engine would not fire up. I notice that it is also more difficult to start up my snowblower and we have been getting so much snow this season that I even though I am dressed in very warm clothing and in layers I am still very cold after a short time outside.
As cold as it is I have had some fun with these extreme temperatures by boiling water in a kettle pouring it into a cup and then hurrying outside to throw this hot liquid into the air. The results are amazing to photograph or video as the water turns immediately while air born into snow. Many people are demonstrating this phenomenon on Youtube.
With this extreme weather comes many risks and people should realize they have to take care when venturing out into minus 30 weather. Extreme cold can affect your immune system as the freezing temperatures results in less blood going to the bodies extremities so that heat can be preserved at the core and the brain. The very cold weather also affects our lungs. Freezing weather can result in a heart attack and this is more so for older people or those with heart problems. The risk becomes greater for older people who are working out in the cold clearing snow. This is because your heart has to work harder to keep you warm and that raises your heart rate and blood pressure.
You can get frostbite when out in weather that is minus 30 and 40 and in particular if there is a wind. Your toes, fingers, ears and nose do not have any muscles to produce heat and because the natural response for a body is to preserve heat by cutting back blood flowing to your extremities you can easily get frostbite. Hypothermia can occur when you are exposed to very cold temperatures for a long period of time and that can kill you. Even your eyes can be affected when out in the freezing temperatures and experts advise wearing goggles or some protection if you are doing outdoor sport such as skiing or snowmobiling. Freezing your eyes can result in frozen corneas and that can damage your eyes. It is also not a good idea to be out exercising, running or exerting yourself in freezing weather as very cold minus 30 and 40 degrees can damage your lungs. It is best to wear a scarf and breath through your nose when out in this weather and to refrain from high exertion.
You might hear a lot of people reacting to this extreme cold weather by remarking that global warming must be a myth because the weather is so cold. The opposite is true in that global warming is very real and responsible for this very cold weather in northern Canada, mid-Canada and the northern United States this year. It is all due to a record-breaking cold wave that comes from a split polar vortex that is pushing freezing Arctic air into lower parts of the continent. Climate change deniers come out of the woodwork to try to question global warming by pointing to colder weather this winter in a world where scientist are warning us about the planet heating up.
As scientists point out warm temperatures in the Arctic, as a result of global warming and climate change, is causing the jet stream to push further south and this is bringing extreme cold to southern areas that don’t usually experience it. This cold weather is also staying in place longer because of the shift of the jet stream. Are things going to get better? It does not look like it as some scientists are forecasting a 50 percent increase in more severe weather in the form of winter freezing temperatures, summer droughts and violent storms. The only things that can possibly help us as we move forward in time is for all countries of the world to unite in a meaningful way to lower the production of green house gases in the atmosphere. However because of lobbying by the oil and other industries that cause a lot of these green house gases, world governments might not find the will and strength to do the right thing. That might just mean the extinction of the human race and just who on earth would profit from that?