how people survive in extreme cold.


how people in extremely cold places can survive? For example, Oymyakon in Siberia regularly gets below – 55°c / – 67°f, and I’m sure we’ve all seen those videos of people throwing boiling water into the air where it freezes instantly. How does blood not freeze? How are mucous membranes and eyeballs not frozen within seconds? How does anybody pee without it instantly freezing?
Obviously people live in heated housing, but how can people go outside/ pee outside without injury? I’ve wondered about this for years, and even more so when I see pictures of animals seemingly frozen in place mid-movement.
Thank you

In: 5357

I live somewhere that gets into the -50s celcius each winter and although it seems bad, is tolerable. People don’t go outside and when they do they dress appropriately. Eyeballs and stuff do hurt within a short time but you don’t just freeze instantly. Plugging block heaters in so the battery doesn’t freeze in vehicles and prestarting cars for 10+ minutes to warm up is normal. The boiling water example is a bit different to explain that someone else I’m sure will do a better job 🙂

Boiling water freezing when thrown to air doesn’t take much. You can do this around -10 to -20. The trick is to thrown it in to air making it small mist where it cools quickly because small droplet of water has little volume and energy overall.

But here is the thing, these extreme colds don’t really bite unless it is windy. Just like we Finns spend time in +80 to +100 saunas, you don’t feel the heat without steam. You can stick your hand in to liquid nitrogen and you’ll be fine for a moment because the boiling gas causes insulation layer. Air is a good insulator for heat especially when it stands still.

So how do you pee in cold? With your back against the wind or shielded from the wind.

Eyes feeezing? The sockets actually create air cushion and with a fuzzy hood or face covering. Now if you pull your brow down you can actually get your eyebrows to shield your eyes.

Noses? Well noses have lots of bloodflow and surface area to heat up the air that comes in. Our noses are really good at this.

But those extreme cold areas in siberians actually have little wind which is why cool down so much they are in a depression or a valley where the air cools and stands still. Alternatively During summer they suffer from high humidity and heat.

But living in a place where you get -30 at least once a winter, it is something you get used to. After like -15 you really don’t notice the difference. I been at the shipyard with -25 and windy and that is something different; being at deck 18 no shield from wind you’ll freeze your ass off regardless of your gear.

But wear layers, fuzzy face coverings and mind the wind. You get used to it. The locals in these extreme areas; Siberians, Sami, Mongols, Turkic, Ainu, they are adapted to it physically.

Ok, take those boiling water into the air things with a BIG grain of salt. Yes some of the finer bits of spray will freeze quickly. There will still be larger drops of water that will still be dangerously hot, yes even at those ludicrous temperatures. Getting burns is a common side effect of people trying to mimic those videos, but doing it poorly. It looks very cool when the water is thrown away from you, do NOT DO IT OVERHEAD

I remember reading *The Long Winter* as a kid, and marveling at them staying alive in the 19th century in that weather.

Cold is obviously harmfull if you are not properly clothed. You need to be able to keep your body heat and not expose too much bare skin.

However, moisture from the air is also an important factor in how *bad* the cold feels. (Similarly on how bad heat feels.)

Below approximately -20°C, the air contains only negligeable moisture and the cold subjectively feels better when breathing.

[Diana can explain]( better than me.

Layering, staying dry and oversized fur-lined hooded parkas. All flesh from neck down is covered and eyes and face are shielded.

Keep moving but not so much you sweat and limit your time outdoors.

One other factor about living in the cold is the amount of calories burned, I’ve read stories of polar expeditions where they planned on eating something like 10,000 calories per day and still lost weight!

I had the briefest taste of that once on a trip to Antarctica we did a swim in about 3° C water. At first it was painful but after a minute or so it wasn’t so bad. It was like my metabolism kicked into high gear and back on the ship I was ravenously hungry and plowed through a huge pile of food.

I used to live in Astana (now Nur-Sultan), Kazakhstan. It’s the 2nd coldest capital in the world… can sometimes get to -50.

You just don’t go outside when you can help it. You also wear fur, wool, and down. You know the typical “Russian” hat? The ushanka? Those are super-practical for the environment, particularly if they are black.

The flaps can be pulled down and tied under your chin (mine is mink) and this wraps large flaps of soft fur across your cheeks and under your chin. The line of fur at the top acts like sunglasses… or like the inverse of when athletes draw black lines under their eyes. It protects from sun glare. It will also provide some protection for the eyes.

If you combine an ushanka with a wool scarf wrapped around the lower face (covering the nose), your skin will be protected.

In terms of using the toilet… frankly, in areas that don’t have indoor plumbing, it’s not unusual for people to set up a bucket in the back room of the house (often a mudroom type area) and use that. It’s not going to stink up the house. You just go to the outhouse and empty it every so often. People have used chamberpots for centuries.

I grew up in Thunder Bay, Ontario where it’s not uncommon for it to get to -40 during the winter. As others have said, it’s just layering and limiting time outdoors.

Cold? Just wear more things

Proper layering is key to staying warm in the cold. The difference between throwing boiling water in freezing temperatures and mucous membranes in freezing temperatures is the fact the boiling water no longer has a source of heat to keep it from freezing but human bodies provide heat energy and thus you stay warm


I’m more curious, why did humans even decide to move to such climates to begin with?

You pretty much just don’t go outside. The nice thing is that at -55 there’s hardly any moisture in the air so there’s pretty much no way it can snow until it warms up.

> I’ve wondered about this for years, and even more so when I see pictures of animals seemingly frozen in place mid-movement.

Those pictures are fake. Somebody found a dead animal that froze after it died and stood it back up to take a dramatic picture. Once they’re frozen solid they’re stiff as a board and you can just pose them however. Its not like they were alive one moment and suddenly froze solid like video game ice magic. Freezing 100lbs of meat takes several hours at least.

I lived in North Dakota for 4 years for college and I don’t even understand how I survived. How people can live in a place that cold for their entire lives boggles my mind. It’s misery. They say “you just get used to it.” But how do you get used to that physical pain that hurts every part of your body?!

I came across this video a few months back where a woman who lives in Yakutia, Siberia (where it gets to -70c) explains what kind of stuff she wears to go outside. It’s one of the few instances of people wearing real animal fur that I can get behind. Faux fur has the style aspect down but really cannot insulate as well.

Those temperatures are usually only for a few days. I live in cold -20 to -40c and windchill can reach -50s

You kinda get used to it and climatize a bit. You stay inside, you dress in layers, you go inside when you have to. Your clothes keep you warm when moving. I would run outside all year -45c and running 15k in the morning.
My biggest fear would be dressing too warm. You sweat and can get dehydrated and then freeze from being wet. Proper clothes and layers helps you out.

Bluf: don’t be outside any more than absolutely necessary, and proper clothing. You’ll live.

Live in Fairbanks, AK, and have to do multiple annual arctic survival type things (army) each winter. Yeah, people generally don’t just stand around in those temperatures. When you are outside, it’s impressive how quickly thermodynamics works. Your stored body heat in your clothes is sapped in minutes. Layered clothing has a huge role to play. Layer up, have insulated layers under your outermost layer. That insulated layer stores the heat your body generates. Have as little exposed skin possible. Always use gloves to avoid contact frostbite. I could go on.

In training it was (cleverly) pointed out to us that basically your body is attempting to heat up the world surrounding you, from the atmosphere to the ground below. That’s obviously a huge struggle. Any wind, or you walking around, and any air you’ve heated leaves. So your body is constantly struggling a losing battle, burning tons of calories to warm the insulated layer you have on. Without that layer, you won’t last long.

Edit: wording.

Edit again: I put it at the top, since my use of bluf seems to be the highlight of my comment lol

Just… Don’t pee outside when it’s under 40below?

Inuk from Iqaluit, Nunavut.

I walk to work all-year long, though it only takes about half an hour to get to my office.

With appropriate winter attire – 60 is doable. Beyond this though, your body does acclimatize to the cold.

Having said that, what we call most southerners (ie most of the Canadians that have replied), dont tend to go outside in – 60.

Funny story, one of my ancestors was a guide for some expiditions that would come here and he’d have to ‘guide’ the people for them to be able to pee.

Modern science is just now starting to catch up with Inuit traditional knowledge, by that I mean you don’t need to wear polar bear hide clothing / caribou clothing to survive up here but it helps.