Skip to navigationSkip to content

It’s so cold in the US that sharks are freezing to death

Atlantic White Shark Conservancy
Beware the arctic outbreak.
  • Molly Rubin
By Molly Rubin

Video journalist

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

From coast to coast, the US is in a deep freeze.

A shot of bitter, arctic air has brought record low temperatures and sub-zero wind chill. The arctic front will continue at least through the end of the week, shattering cold records across North America in what meteorologists are calling an “arctic outbreak.

Though 2017 was the second hottest year on record (and the hottest without an El Niño), the year ended with record lows and sub-zero wind chill. Meteorologists in Embarrass, Minnesota recorded a mind-blowing -45°F without the wind chill. Even in south Texas it feels like -10°in some places. At least five deaths are being blamed on the cold.

It’s so cold, sharks are washing up on beaches

In Massachusetts, the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy found three thresher sharks washed up in Cape Cod, “stranded due to cold shock,” which can cause cardiac arrest in animals.

The conservancy collected tissue samples from the sharks that will be examined “once they thaw.”

“We hauled the shark off the beach and it is currently thawing at NOAA Fisheries Service to be dissected later,” the group wrote on Facebook about the latest shark discovery. “A true sharkcicle!”

It’s so cold, Niagara Falls appears to have frozen over

Niagara Falls normally has 681,750 gallons of water pouring over its edge each second. With temperatures around -11°, much of the flow has been on its way to freezing.

As Quartz’s Steve Mollman points out, the falls never completely freeze over, because some water below or near the ice surface is always flowing.

It’s so cold, road salt is useless

Road salts work because dissolved salt gives water a lower freezing point. If you add salt to ice, it starts a cycle of that first dissolves any liquid on top, lowering its freezing point below that of the ice. The ice in contact with salty water then melts, which dissolves more salt.

Water mixed with salt has a freezing point of about 0°F, so road salt is only somewhat effective at temperatures below 20—and won’t melt ice at all if the temperature is below zero.

It’s so cold, Canada is colder than Mars

On Dec. 27, the temperature on Mars reached about -20°F. In Saskatoon, Canada the temperature was -45°F. Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, and Calgary are experiencing colder temperatures (with wind chill) than daytime Mars, though at night, the temperature on the red planet plunges to below -100°F.

It’s so cold in Canada that electric poles are snapping in Nova Scotia, windows are breaking spontaneously,  most ice skating has been canceled, and even Toronto’s famous polar bear plunge was postponed for the first time in 13 years.

It’s so cold, Chicago set a New Year’s record

Chicago experienced its coldest recorded daytime high on New Year’s Day.

It’s so cold, Boston broke a century-old record

The city of Boston is used to cold winters, but today (Jan. 2) was the seventh straight day of temperatures at or below 20°F, a streak that hasn’t been seen for 100 years according to WCVB meteorologist Cindy Fitzgibbon.

It’s so cold, water freezes mid-air

One good thing about sub-zero temperatures—you can make your own snow:

It’s so cold, bubbles shatter when they pop

Homemade snow is cool, and tiny, beautiful snow globes are cooler. Many Twitter users are posting videos of bubbles freezing into crystal balls:

Katy Hallgren of Michigan tested out sub-zero bubble popping and captured the footage on Instagram:

It’s so cold, a zoo had to bring the penguins inside

In Canada, it’s so frigid that even animals who are accustomed to polar temperatures are cold. The Calgary Zoo in Alberta had to bring its 51 penguins indoors.

Zoo regulations dictate that the penguins are brought inside if temperatures fall below -13° F (-25°C). Temperatures averaged -19°F in recent days, and with wind chill, it has felt more like -40°F.

“It’s not necessarily that it’s too cold for them,” Calgary Zoo’s Malu Celli told The Globe and Mail. “I believe that physiologically, they can withstand colder weather than what we have here, but these are not wild birds.”

It’s so cold, the nation’s “icebox” set a record

According to the National Weather Service, International Falls, Minnesota, known as the “Icebox of the Nation,” set a new low-temperature record of -37°F, breaking the old record of -32°F set in 1924.

It’s so cold, the NWS issued a winter-storm watch in the Southeast

The National Weather Service (NWS) issued a winter-storm watch for southern Georgia and northern Florida for the first time in four years.

The NWS has issued wind-chill warnings from Texas up to Canada, and from Montana to Maine.

Only California, Nevada, Florida, Arizona, and Hawaii had forecasted highs above freezing today.

And the big chill is not going away any time soon: All 48 continental US states are expected to experience temperatures below freezing tomorrow (Jan. 3).

Another shot of arctic air is expected to blast across the Midwest, South, and East later this week, so the “arctic outbreak” is far from over.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Niagara Falls has frozen over. It has not and does not. 

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.