What Does -30° F Look Like?
Northern Minnesota gets pretty cold in the winter, usually dipping below -30° F at least a few times a year. Sometimes, the temperature hovers down in that range for weeks. People from warmer climates frequently wonder what -30° or -40° feels like, and the internet is full of answers. For me, though, when I think of a -30° or -40° morning, I think of what it looks like.
What do you see when you’re walking through Minnesota’s North Woods on such a cold day? The extreme temperature creates some spectacular effects. In the right conditions, the air is filled with tiny ice crystals called diamond dust. These are so small that they drift through the air for a while before settling to the ground; as a result, the air glitters everywhere you look. With the right combination of diamond dust and sunlight, you can sometimes see a colorful pillar of light just above the ground. Seeing this brilliant rainbow in a snowy forest is unforgettable, and you’re most likely to observe it at temperatures below -25° F.
The unique beauty of a cold morning includes the forest animals as well. In the desert of winter, living things can become coated in ice as the moisture that they release freezes onto them. If you see a mammal, you’ll likely see a shimmering coat of crystals on the outside of its fur. If you stay out long enough, your face mask and ruff will gradually build up ice deposits as well. In addition to furry critters, you might also see some birds flitting around. Bird feathers don’t usually frost up, but they still look different in colder temperatures. Those birds that choose to spend the winter, such as ravens and gray jays, will look plumper than usual because of the way they fluff their feathers to stay warm.
You can appreciate the day with your ears as well as your eyes. Other than the occasional sound of wingbeats or the swishing of branches, the North Woods tends to be pretty quiet. If you stop and listen, you might encounter the sort of silence that has become rare in the modern world.
Sure, -30° is cold. However, the extreme weather creates stunning beauty. Next time the thermometer dips lower than usual, put on your anorak and overmitts, find someone who knows how to stay safe, and go for a walk. See you out there!
Author: Saeward Schillaci
Saeward Schillaci is a professional writer and editor. She is the founder of Northwoods Editing, which specializes in helping businesses create quality written content. Currently, Saeward lives on an off-grid property near Isabella, MN with six other people, sixty-two sled dogs, ten chickens, two cats, and some wild star-nosed moles. In her spare time, she enjoys canoeing, climbing, creative writing, skiing, dog sledding, and playing with puppies.