Wearing a bikini at 40 below is a Fairbanks Do. Read why, how to prepare for it, what it feels like.
- What’s the difference between a degree Celsius and Fahrenheit?
- The tales on Fahrenheit’s scale
- How Celsius defined his scale
- Why I posed in a bikini at 40 below
- How I posed in a bikini at 40 below
- How do 40 below feel on the bare skin?
- Wrapping Up Wearing a Bikini at 40 Below
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.
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.
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
Why I posed in a bikini at 40 below
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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