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Posts Tagged ‘Antarctica’

I love to shovel snow.  No, I’m serious.  I really enjoy it.  My goal has always been to get the driveway and sidewalk completely clean after a snowfall.  So I start by removing as much snow as possible.  Then I take a metal scraper out and run it over any places where the snow has been pressed down, whether by feet or car tires or whatever.  Once that’s done, I bevel the snow on the edge of the driveway so it’s all nice and even.  It takes a while, but the results are worth it.

I write all that as though it still happens.  It doesn’t.  I’m no longer allowed to shovel snow.  The surgeon that fixed my back last October put shoveling at the top of the list of no-nos.  So now the neighbors tackle it with their snow blowers or my wife takes care of it.  I watch from inside the house.

The Sahara Desert is the largest desert in the world.  Well, technically it’s not because scientists consider the Arctic and Antarctica to be larger deserts.  I don’t know how they’re deserts, but there are a ton of things I don’t know.  Anyways, the Sahara is about as large as the continental United States, and it’s one of the hottest places on earth, with an average temperature approaching 90°F.  If ever there was a place that it wouldn’t snow, it would be in these vast three-and-a-half million North African square miles.

Oh, but it has snowed in the Sahara.  In January of 2012, the desert got snow.  But it’s pretty rare.  In fact, in my digging around, I could only find two instances when snowfall was recorded:  last year and February 18, 1979.

That first snowfall took Algerians by complete surprise, even though it lasted but half an hour.  And it probably snarled traffic and closed schools, despite the fact that it was gone before sundown.  The really good thing is that the sand trucks probably didn’t have far to go to fill up.  I wonder if the kids knew to have a snowball fight, or make a snowman, or snow angels…I hope so.

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I have to say it feels pretty good to write about the cold on a day like today.  Outside our house, it’s about 80°F with 70% humidity and bright sunshine, which means we might have storms firing up again tonight.  At 3am this morning, we scampered to the basement, accompanied by the sonorous strains of the tornado siren in harmony with the sound of a freight train (which happily turned out to be just powerful straight-line winds).  The only mess to clean up is some branches in the back and the neighbors’ garbage strewn all over the lawn (storms right before trash pickup are the worst!).

Where was I?  Oh yeah, the cold.  It gets pretty cold here in the heartland, and some of the temperature swings in the winter are downright crazy.  For example, back on March 2, 2008, our noon-time temperature was 60°F. By 6pm, it was just 10 above and we finished the evening below 0…a nearly 70 degree swing in less than 12 hours!!

But I didn’t sit down to right about our weather or even wild weather (though I’ve succeeded at doing both), I wanted to write about cold weather.  I was poking around Wikipedia a while back, looking for “filler” material, and I found this:  on July 21, 1983, the lowest recorded temperature on earth was measured at Vostok Station, a Russian research station in Antarctica.  And how low was that temperature?  A very chilly -128.6°F.

During the summer time…well, there really is no summer at Vostok, because the temperature almost never rises above 0°F (the warmest recorded temperature at Vostok was a balmy +10°F).  But during the “warmer” time, temperatures average about -25°F…so still bitterly cold.  Where I live, the record lows have only touched that level once or twice.

All of which serves only to make me feel like a wuss for griping about the winters here.

The research done at Vostok involves drilling ice cores.  Scientists dig thousands of feet into the ice and remove cross sections of ice.  Using these samples, they try to determine climate conditions from way back and how it’s changed over time.  Honestly, I don’t find ice cores very interesting, but -130°F seems so incredibly cold…

Recommended Activity:  For just a small taste of what Vostok is like, eat a Klondike Bar.  These triple-chocolate fudge ones are simply delicious, and eating just one makes you glad for the cold.

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