Officially, the coldest place on Earth is the East Antarctica Plateau, where NASA has confirmed it gets to nearly minus 140 degrees. But apparently, the agency has never been to Alpine Animal Hospital at 830 Skyline Road in Laramie, Wyoming, where — according to a large time and temperature sign outside — it’s been a steady minus 196 degrees all week.
The lowest temperature ever recorded on Earth was in Antarctica on Aug. 10, 2010, according to NASA. That day, it was 135.8 degrees below zero. That would make this blip on the map in southcentral Wyoming the coldest place in human history by a long shot.
Of course, it was — and has never been — that cold in Laramie.
The dramatic temperature is simply a yet-to-be-resolved, but amusing, technical error with the animal hospital’s electronic sign.
Failure To Communicate
David Evertson, a veterinarian and owner of Alpine Animal Hospital, said the digital sign in front of the building has been there since he moved into it in 2008. Last summer, he encountered a standard problem with chilling results.
“The sign is remotely controlled from my office with like an RF radio,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “That RF radio went out this summer, and I couldn't control the sign. So, the sign’s been going on and off. So, we weren't able to set the time, those types of things. And lately, it’s been the temperature change.”
Evertson isn’t sure why the temperature displayed has been so erratic and just plain wrong. Even after he regained control of the sign, he hasn’t been turning a cold shoulder to the problem.
“I am able now to communicate with the sign again, but I can't change the temperature,” he said. “There must be something internal on the sign that reads the temperature, and it must not be working for some reason. I haven't reset that to find out if that's the issue or not.”
How Cold Is Too Cold?
Veterinarians are always on call and occasionally make house calls, even when the weather takes dangerously cold turns. But even Evertson admits there’s a point where it’s too cold to keep working.
“We have a pour-on dewormer that’s partly isopropyl alcohol,” he said. “I’ve been pre-checking and pouring it on the cattle, and that has turned to sludge. And I figured when isopropyl alcohol starts to turn the sludge, it's probably pretty cold. We still work in those days, but it's not as much fun.”
Luckily, the six veterinarians at Alpine Animal Hospital are still working (and not actually working in the coldest temperatures in human history). The sign might read minus 196 today, but it could display equally unbelievable summer temperatures tomorrow.
“It’s only been that cold for a little while,” Evertson said, “and at least it's Fahrenheit and not Celsius.”
A Humanity Killer
While the sign is obviously a malfunction, what if it really were minus 196 degrees outside?
Cowboy State Daily meteorologist Don Day used an extraterrestrial cold comparison.
"It would be like living on Mars, where temperatures can get to minus 199," he said.
Mars is further from the sun than Earth and that planet's thin atmosphere does a poor job of containing heat. The average surface temperature is minus 80.
A minus 196 day in Laramie wouldn't be a bad day for Laramie residents, he said. It'd be their last day because the air would be so cold it would freeze your lungs.
"Survival would be tough," Day said. "Even in layers of clothes, you would have to breathe with something that would heat the air. Basically, no survival for man or beast, except maybe some microorganisms."
That would be bad for business at Laramie's Alpine Animal Shelter, and even Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer from 1990s “Saturday Night Live” would find it impossible to dismiss a case that cold.
Andrew Rossi can be reached at: ARossi@CowboyStateDaily.com
Andrew Rossi can be reached at email@example.com.