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Germanarctica!

Posted by on February 8, 2012

Normally at about this time of year, there would be snow ranging from six inches to a foot in the northern parts of the US and all of Canada, while Europe would thaw early because of its mild winters where temperatures are above freezing and if there is snow, then only in the mountain regions of the Alps and to a certain degree some mountain regions in the southern half of Germany, like Little Switzerland in southern Saxony and northern Bavaria and the Black Forest in Baden Wurttemberg. Not this winter!

If there is a sure sign that climate change is in full swing, here is a short one sentence summary to describe what we are still going through: It is spring in the US while Europe has converted itself into its own form of Antarctica, or as the title puts it, Germanarctica. In the past week, temperatures here in Europe have plummeted by up to 40°C from a balmy 10° above zero and lots of green to -30°C and snow cover, forcing many people to seek warm shelters and travellers to reconsider their plans as many airlines and railines have been crippled. At the time of this entry, as many as 400 people have died of cold exposure, most of them being the homeless and residents with either no heating or one that malfunctioned.  It is unknown how many have died in Germany except reports have indicated at least a dozen bodies have been found, but according to Deutsche Welle, the hardest hit area seems to be the Ukraine and points to the south and east. 135 dead have been reported in the country with more to come as many areas in the south and east are not only trying to survive the cold but also dig out of snowfall of up to a meter (3 feet) high in Serbia, Bosnia and Romania, just to name a few areas.

While this cold snap is nothing compared to the cold snaps that occurred last winter and even more so in 1994 to 1997 (where Tower, Minnesota broke its own record by posting a low of -60°F (-51°C) in 1996), it is bad enough that many places in Germanarctica have set records for low temperatures. A couple nights ago, no city in Germany, not even the northern part could escape temperatures of at least -20°C, with some places in Hamburg and Kiel reaching -28°C. Even the waterways, like the Elbe, Danube, Rhein and the Main are frozen solid thus suspending shipping indefinitely. And the cold snap has not been kind to diesel-operated cars, as many of them have not functioned properly because of the fuel’s inability to adapt to the cold. This has forced many to carpool or take the train, the latter of which are either overpacked or delayed by up to an hour.

To provide you with an example of how bad this cold snap has been here in Germanarctica, I conducted an experiment involving pouring  salt water in a cup and setting it outside. While theory has it that salt water never freezes over, despite putting excessive amounts of salt in the water, this weather proved the theory dead wrong, for the salt water did freeze over within a span of eight hours! This is how severe the weather has been, and sadly it will continue for another week before we finally see a sign of spring weather.

Surprisingly though, the salt water experiment did get the author to think whether the cold snap could freeze alcohol, as bad as it was. Trying that experiment, it was proven that it was not the case (which fits to the argument that alcohol never freezes, even in this extreme cold weather), and combining it with the salt water, it can even reduce the ice to water. In case if one runs out of salt or sand for the sidewalk and has a bottle of vodka in their possession, one might want to think about that as an alternative, although be forewarned: alcohol, like salt, needs time to work and should be added a few hours before leaving.

NOTE: Over 30,000 were taken to the hospital for frostbite and many villages in the southeastern part of Europe have been buried with snow to a point where many residents were cut off from the world completely. Work is in progress to dig the villages out.

Links:   http://www.dw.de/dw/article/0,,15725176,00.html

http://www.dw.de/dw/article/0,,15722472,00.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tower,_Minnesota

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