Frigid Winnipeg temperatures reach as cold as the planet Mars

It's been really cold in southern Manitoba this week — in fact, it's so cold that the Manitoba Museum reported on their Facebook page that it's roughly as cold as the planet Mars!

Temperatures in Winnipeg hovered around -31 degrees Celsius yesterday afternoon, which were the coldest afternoon temperatures the area has seen in several years. Wind chill values, which had dipped to near or at -50 earlier in the day, were still hovering around -40 in the afternoon — cold enough to freeze expose skin in as little as five minutes!

Meanwhile, roughly 200 million kilometres away, NASA's one-ton, nuclear powered robotic rover Curiosity has been exploring Mars' Gale Crater. Measurements from its REMS instrument (Rover Environmental Monitoring Station) have been arriving back here on Earth since shortly after the rover landed in August of 2012. The data only goes up to December 20/21 right now (Sol 489 or Curiosity's 489th Martian day), but over the past month, REMS has been reporting daily high temperatures ranging from -25 to -31 degrees Celcius, and according to the data, -31 degrees Celsius is the coldest daily high the rover has seen since it landed!

Now, one thing I should point out is that whereas Winnipeg is at 50°N latitude here on Earth, Curiosity is located at 5°S latitude on Mars. If you plunked Curiosity down at an equivalent latitude on Earth, she'd be somewhere in the middle of the Amazon rain forest. If you went up to 50°N latitude on Mars, it would be a lot colder.

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Even as cold as it's been in Manitoba over the past few days, it apparently doesn't set a new record, but it may have come very close. According to what Environment Canada meteorologist Dale Marciski told CBC News, the record to beat for December 31st in Winnipeg is -37.8 degrees Celsius. As of 9 a.m. Central Time on Tuesday, the temperature in Winnipeg apparently reached a low of -37.8 degrees C. Still, as far as coldest Decembers goes, it was only the fifth coldest on record (1879 was apparently the coldest).

As for how long this cold is set to last, it looks like there could be a bit of a break on Friday as the temperatures creep up to around -15 degrees C as a snowstorm comes through, and then it'll be back into the Martian temperatures for the weekend.

Bundle up (and maybe break out the space suits)!

Update (Jan. 6/2014): It turns out that Winnipeg's afternoon temperature on December 31st, 2013 actually was colder than Mars! An update from the Curiosity rover for Sol 499 (December 31st here on Earth) showed a maximum air temperature of -30°C! As for it being colder on Mars, we had an example of that just one day later. On Sol 500, the equivalent of January 1st, 2014, the daily high temperature at Curiosity's location reached -50°C!

(Photo courtesy: NASA/Hubble)

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