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Fashion blogger Nicole of High Latitude Style posing in a bikini at minus 40 Fahrenheit at the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus entrance

Wearing a bikini at 40 below is a Fairbanks Do. Read why, how to prepare for it, what it feels like.

  1. What’s the difference between a degree Celsius and Fahrenheit?
    • The tales on Fahrenheit’s scale
    • How Celsius defined his scale
  2. Why I posed in a bikini at 40 below
  3. How I posed in a bikini at 40 below
  4. How do 40 below feel on the bare skin?
  5. Wrapping Up Wearing a Bikini at 40 Below
  6. References

What’s the difference between a degree Celsius and Fahrenheit?

Whenever you want to measure something, you will have to establish a scale. This means you choose two reference points that you can use for calibration. A reference point must fulfill the criterion that you will get the same value when you repeat the observation under the same conditions. Then you perform all you measurements with this scale and are able to compare your observations.

The tales on Fahrenheit’s scale

1724, Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit, who was a physicist of Dutch–German–Polish heritage, developed the temperature scale and named the units after himself. There are several stories about how he established the scale. The most physical ones are the creation of a solution of brine consisting of equal fractions of ice, water and ammonium chloride as the lower reference (0F) and the melting point of ice (32F) or using the boiling point of water. It is believed that the brine solution was the lowest temperature he knew. Other stories refer to the temperature of the human blood as the upper level set at 100F and the melting point of ice at the lower end. Actually, later the Fahrenheit scale was revised as the normal human body temperature is actually 98.6F.

Another story takes the melting point of ice 32F and boiling point of water (212F) at normal sea level pressure (1013.25 mbar=1013.25 hPa=1 atm) as reference. Somehow the 212F and 32F seem odd choices. Thus, the brine solution and blood values for 0F and 100F seem more straight forward.

#maturestyle fashion blogger in swimwear at -40F
Me posing in black swimwear in front of the UAF temperature display at minus 40F

How Celsius defined his scale

In 1742, the Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius created the Celsius scale. He defined the freezing and boiling point of water at normal sea level pressure as 0oC and 100oC, respectively.

#styleover50 older woman in two piece swimwear at forty below
Posing at the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus entrance in GNW cable knit socks, Sanchez riding boots, a shearling hat, Hermes collier de chien bangle, and Jockey bikini

How to convert a temperature in C to F

Usually, the following formulas are used to convert the scales where TF and TC are the temperatures in Fahrenheit and Celsius, respectively.
F to oC: TC=(TF-32)*5/9oC
oC to F: TF=(9/5*TC+32)F=(1.8*TCF+32)F

Diagram comparing the values of the Fahrenheit and Celsius scale
Comparison of the Fahrenheit and Celsius scale temperatures. Their values only agree at -40. Diagram courtesy to G. Kramm EMC

Why I posed in a bikini at 40 below

Two reasons:

  • The only point at which the values on the two scales are the same is at -40 (see above diagram). Thus, it’s sort of a “magic” number.
  • It’s a tradition that UAF students pose in swimwear in front of the UAF entrance sign at the only common value of the scales.
#maturestyle older woman in two piece swimsuit and riding boots
Front view of LOTD


Well, what would be a better eye catcher for some science bits about the scales than doing the Nanook Nation thing? I reported about this Nanook Nation thing earlier on the blog. It always causes a traffic jam.

It's a Nanook thing to take a selfie at 40 below in a swim outfit. #tradition Click To Tweet

Note that the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ (UAF) mascot is the nanook. In the Inuit religion, the Nanook (polar bear) is the Master of the Bears being “almost like man.” Each year, an ice sculpture of a polar bear is made and positioned on campus. Read more about ice sculptures like ice shoes or the ice sculpture of Governor and Lieutant Governor Walker and Mallot.

#nanook 50+ woman posing in front of a polar bear ice sculpture
It’s a Nanook’s thing. See the UAF mascot ice sculpture and the carving in the ice plate

How I posed in a bikini at 40 below

You can easily imaging that taking such a photo requires some logistics. I put the clothes I wanted to wear together when the 10 days forecast (that’s about the longest that’s reliable) predicted -40F for Friday. A bikini, the cable knit knee-high socks, my riding boots with sheepskin insole and shearling head for the outfit photo. My Adidas pants and jacket for cover up and my shearling coat and gloves. We watched the forecast the entire time and made sure our camera was always fully charged.

#advancedfashion mature woman in swimgear
Timing is everything

Friday evening at 2208 Alaska Time (10:08 pm) my husband said “It’s -40 at the airport and -38o at UAF. Do you really want to do it?” I was already in my PJs and cuddling with our cat on the floor at that time. “There’s no public display of the NWS (National Weather Service) site at the airport and it’s only -38 at UAF. Will it get any colder?” I replied. “Well, not according to the forecasts.” “Ok, let’s go. Then -38 is the new -40. I can pull the NWS report from the web for evidence.”

While I was changing, my hubby drove the car out of the garage and kept it running to heat its passenger cabin. When I entered the car, its display of the outside temperature showed -38F. At the crossing of University Avenue/Geist Road, the display showed -39F. When we arrived at the UAF entrance, there were already two cars in front of us. Students taking their photos of Nanookhood. On contrast to the students, I undressed in the car, while my hubby preped the camera. When I ran out thru the deep snow, he followed me taking the photos with bare hands (!) wearing long underwear, an Alaska jeans (16oz plus flanel lining), a cable knit wool sweat and his Arctic certified down coat. See this post for a photo of the coat.

How do 40 below feel on the bare skin?

Cold, biting cold. It felt like I jumped into ice cold water after a sauna, sort off. However, the hormons of being excited to finally do it – friends of mine know that I have been planning these science bits for a long time – made me not to think about the cold air. When back in the car, I dressed as fast as I could. On the ride home, I felt like I had had a good workout. I guess my body burned some calories the two minutes I was exposed to the 40 below freezing air. 😉 Would I recommend it? NO! Only when you are a Nanook like me.

#agelesststyle over 50 fashion blogger Nicole in swimwear


Wrapping Up Wearing a Bikini at 40 Below

People get used to the weather of the climate region they live in. Therefore, wearing a bikini at 40 below scares Alaskan women less than it sounds for a woman living in Arizona, for instance. On the contrary, the Alaskan woman would feel a thermal stress already at 77F (20oC), while a woman from Virgina would feel fine. The different sensitivity to temperatures also explains why people loose clothes even in frigid weather.

Did you know the differences of the scales? Just curious.


Mölders, N., Kramm, G., 2014. Lectures in Meteorology, Springer, New York.

Mölders, Nicole, 2019. Outdoor Universal Thermal Comfort Index Climatology for Alaska, Atmosphere and Climate Sciences, DOI: 10.4236/acs.2019.94036

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Photos: G. Kramm

© 2013-2021Nicole Mölders | All rights reserved

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This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. I think you’re crazy, in a good way. Wrote something for you—I hope I got the details right. Don’t yell at me!

    bikinis at 40 below?

    Bikinis at forty below,

    “F” or “C”, I don’t know….

    Either is true

    While they turn blue,

    College kids strip down to—WHOA-!

    Alumni egg the others on,

    Bikini-clad adults swarm….

    Showing they have guts

    And thinly veiled butts,

    Jamming traffic, the only harm?

    Jonathan Caswell

    Poem dedicated to Nicole Molders, of HIGH ALTITUDE STYLE-!

    Now you can yell at me. Jonathan Caswell, poet

  2. Thanks for the compliment, but it’s just too cold in Alaska. …. and I love my clothes and dressing. LOL

  3. Such an interesting post, I knew of Mr Fahrenheit and Mr Celsius of course, but the points of reference maybe I never knew, not even in school. And I had no inkling about the -40 magic number. But Nicole, with the amazing body you have just forget about clothes posts and wear bikinis 365!
    Hugs, Mary x.

  4. This Main Line Life

    Ha, you must have been freezing even if it was a pretty quick set of shots. You look so cute in your bikini and snow hat and boots. Great idea for a post.
    x, Julie

  5. Wow, ganz schön mutig bei der Kälte. Du hast eine fantastische Figur.

    Liebe Grüße Sabine

  6. Linda Cassidy

    that is friggin awesome. Oh lord I can just imagine how that felt. Good on you though and you are rocking that bikini

  7. mummabstylish

    Well you look fabulous – that’s my opinion! Well done for being so brave and sharing these shots! Jacqui Mummabstylish

  8. That s brave! But you have got a fabulous figure!

  9. Jodie

    Nope…I don’t think I’m that crazy!! LOL!!

  10. aquamarinastyle

    Hi Nicole,

    What an interesting post. And what a crazy tradition!! I can’t believe you posed out there in -40 degrees!! I’m so impressed! Fortunately, you look great in your bathing suit–no surprises there, fashionista!!

    Thanks for sharing. And for braving the cold.

    xx Darlene