Relative Temperatures

It was pretty cold (13 F) Saturday and even colder Sunday morning at my house (3 F). This got me thinking about how wimpy we are as humans. Compared to temperatures in space, we can only tolerate a narrow range. Graphics often help me understand things better (and Alex has shown me how effective they are) so I plotted a few temperatures:

On the cold side we have absolute zero, the absence of all thermal energy, at -273 C (-460 F). The coldest temperature on Earth was recorded at Vostok Station, Antarctica -89.2 C (-128.6 F). That's abominably cold for us homo sapiens, but absolute zero, essentially the temperature of space, is 3 times colder. Absolute zero is 5 times colder than the lowest temperature recorded in Utah -50.6 C (-59 F).

Trivia: What is the coldest place in Utah? A mountain peak? Nope, it's a depression called Peter Sink near Logan. As cold air fills Cache Valley it spills into Peter Sink (and the equally cold Middle Sink nearby) and can't escape so it just gets colder and colder. It never goes more than 4 days without freezing and is the coldest spot in the 48 States.

Now the hot side. There are amazingly high temperatures in the universe, like the surface of the Sun at 5500 C, but let's be a bit more reasonable. The planet with the hottest surface temperature is Venus at 462 C (864 F). That's hot enough to melt Lead (327.6 C) and Zinc (419.7 C). Temperatures on Earth aren't even close with the hottest recorded at Al 'Aziziyah, Libya 57.8 C (136 F) - Venus is 8 times hotter. The best Utah could muster is 47.2 C (117 F), in St. George (no surprise there).

So when it's a really cold or hot day, relative to space and Venus, it could be a lot worse.


Anonymous said...

what does this have to do with biking?

KanyonKris said...

Very little. This blog is mostly about biking, but I throw random posts in occasionally.

Watcher said...

Wow. minus 59F is just mind-blowingly cold. I never knew it got that cold here. Guess I better stop whining about the temps here in SLC this week. I checked out where Peter Sink is on the topo, and I've been right near there a number of times. You know, once or twice a year I get up around Logan (usually around LOTOJA) and think, Hey this is really pretty up here, maybe I should retire up here someday... Then a few months later I see some winter weather map and the low for the state is always within 20 miles of Logan, and I think No Freaking Way.

Oh and FWIW, blog about whatever you want to. It's your blog, and nobody's paying you to stay "on theme." (That's how I justify all the wacky stuff on my blog ;^)

MOCougFan said...

Interesting as usual KK.

I drove through Cheyenne WY last year at New Years time from Utah to MO. It was 12 below. Not including the wind chill which was quite uncomfortable. My new Tundra barely started. We left quickly. I like cold, but not that cold. This Christmas in Utah was absolutely perfect.

KanyonKris said...

Watcher - Yes, Cache Valley is beautiful in Summer and a great place to ride a bike. But hey get some nasty cold weather in Winter, especially when the inversion sets in.

MOCougFan - That section of Wyoming seems to ALWAYS be windy, and at -12! I could not live there.