Jul 222011

Human memory is far from perfect.

During the winter of 1988-1989, I was renting a small office on Ottawa’s Bank Street with my business partner John. We spent many a late night working on a difficult project, and it was one cold winter. I distinctly remember one night when the temperature dipped to −36 degrees Centigrade, and I not only had a hard time starting my car (only to rush back to the building to warm up and then run out to the car again after a few minutes in the hope that it would have warmed up a little by then) but its engine never reached its normal operating temperature during the 10 km drive home.

Except that it never happened. The -36°C, that is. The coldest historical temperature I can find for that winter is −27.2°C, which occurred in early March 1989; earlier, in January, it went down to −27.0°C one night.

I also distinctly remember that the first winter my wife spent here in Ottawa, she was renting a stall on the Byward Market and that on Christmas Eve day, the temperature never climbed above −24°C.

Again, never happened. On December 24, 1992, the high temperature was +2.7°C. Perhaps a year later, then? Yes, that was a cold Christmas Eve day, but not near that cold; the high temperature was -10.0°C.

Then there is that very cold winter in Budapest that I recall. It was brutal; my old Lada’s engine half froze. Eventually I managed to get it running without overheating, and then I spent half the night looking for a gas station that was selling antifreeze. Eventually I found one, way outside of Budapest. I do recall hearing on the radio that the temperature was -29°C. It wasn’t… according to the historical weather records that I can locate, the coldest night was on February 12, 1985, with a temperature of −24°C. Brutally cold by Budapest standards to be sure, but still 5 degrees warmer than what I remember.

At least I do know for a fact that today, the temperature reached +36°C. I think I owe an extra prayer of thanks to the gods of air conditioning.

 Posted by at 2:37 am

  One Response to “Human memory”

  1. The thermometer in my truck was consistently saying 38 or 39 degrees as I went about various errands after work. Isn’t UHI wonderful? :-)