Canadian Prairies locked in icy grip of winter too cold for penguins

Adriana Navarro

A deep freeze hit Canada earlier in the week, driving temperatures to subzero levels - parts of Alberta even reaching temperatures lower than some places in Antarctica.

The bitter cold caused problems from cracking a rail line in Edmonton, Alberta, to driving an energy emergency alert as people in the providence rushed to crank up the heat, according to CBC.

The cracked rail line on the Edmonton Light Rail Transit (LRT) caused issues for commuters Tuesday morning. Dead car batteries also added to commuting delays in the frigid weather.

"Solids tend to become increasingly brittle as temperature drops," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jim Andrews said. "Metals such as steel can become prone to shattering under stresses that might not be troublesome under moderate temperature."

As of Jan. 17, the majority of Alberta is under an extreme cold warning, and parts of the British Columbia coastline faces an Arctic outflow warning.

Since Jan. 12, Calgary has been colder than the Amundsen-Scout South Pole Station in Antarctica, where it is currently summer.

The Calgary Zoo in Alberta had to cancel its "Penguin Walk" - an event which gathers large crowds to watch the penguins and a few zookeepers as they take a stroll through the zoo - due to the temperatures being below comfortable levels for the birds.

The Calgary Zoo in Alberta, Canada, canceled its popular Penguin Walk after temperatures dipped to uncomfortable levels - even for the penguins. (Image/CBC)

"The Penguin Walk has been canceled for today, January 15, due to extreme cold weather conditions. As this weather puts physiological stress on the birds, we cancel the walk for their welfare," the Calgary Zoo tweeted.

The Penguin Walk had been scheduled for Jan. 13 before it had been postponed until the next day. However, the Penguin Walk still has not resumed on account of the temperatures being too low for even the birds.

"You gotta keep moving," a passerby told CBC News, bundled in a thick jacket, a hat and a face mask.

"Physical work releases additional heat inside the body, thereby offsetting the loss of heat to the environment," Andrews said. "This is something a skier knows, or a snow shoveler. So being active outdoors and appropriately dressed even at -40 degrees, can actually be more invigorating than dangerous."

Red Deer, Alberta, reached minus 40 degrees F (minus 40 C) on Jan. 12, but that didn't stop Jason Zackowski from doing some cold weather experiments.

Using a solution of soapy water and a straw, Zackowski created a bubble, which froze into an ice orb before his eyes in the cold. The process relies on simple supplies, but weather conditions need to be not just at the right temperature, but with little wind.

Zackowski also filmed a friend taking a cup of boiling water, tossing it into the air and letting the sub-zero temperatures do the rest. The water arced, freezing in midair.

"Flinging boiling water into very cold air releases a burst of water vapor that instantly condenses into a cloud," Andrews explained.

An employee at the National Weather Service office in Glasgow, Montana, did a similar experiment on Jan. 15 with temperatures reaching a brisk -13 degrees F.