Degrees of frost

For practicality, you can’t beat the Celsius temperature scale. Were it not for the stubbornness of Americans, the weird Fahrenheit alternative (initially established with ice, brine, and an armpit) would be long-gone. For scientists, the Kelvin scale lets you represent temperature appropriately for thermodynamic calculations, and helpfully retains the same unit size as Celsius.

I would have thought the case would be closed there, but Bill Streever’s book made me aware of a more romantic-sounding alternative: degrees of frost. This temperature measure – a favourite of penguin-egg-gatherer and Antarctic explorer Apsley Cherry-Garrard – measures how many degrees it is below the freezing temperature of water.

Naturally, I prefer the Celsius version, though it sounds a bit less dramatic. Right now, it is a completely tolerable -4˚C in Ottawa. That’s just four degrees of frost – nothing to compared to the 60.8 degrees of frost experienced by Cherry-Garrard. The worst I’ve seen in Ottawa is about thirty degrees of frost, during my first frozen winter in Ottawa. Wind chill, incidentally, is not really a very scientific thing.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

One thought on “Degrees of frost”

  1. Aside from a pigheaded refusal to make the effort of changing, I have no idea why anyone would use Fahrenheit. So saying, given how flawed the US political system is, one can see why they legislators would avoid the change given that there would be a short-term cost & only a long-term benefit. No doubt any effort to regulate such a claim would lead to lots of demands for financial compensation & letters of complaint from foolish citizens.

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