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  1. Holden
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    Holden Senior Member

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    Freezing Temperature Effect on Buildings

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Holden, Jan 27, 2011.

    I'll be looking into this on my own, as well, but I thought some people here might have particularly good insight into this topic.

    What are the effects of freezing temperatures (from 30 F to -30 F, mainly) on large urban areas? I'm talking specifically about the effects on skyscapers, bridges, and other large landmarks/monuments?

    How long would a large city (NYC, LA, etc.) be able to maintain its "form" in constant freezing temperatures? When would buildings be destroyed? Would it happen slowly or many at a certain point?

    Thanks in advance for the information.
     
  2. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Metal shrinks in the cold and water expands - pipes busting is always the first thing to happen. Judging by how roads crumble over the winter, I'd say stones and masonry are likely to break up from that - when water gets into the cracks in them and expands it shreds them. If just over one winter you can get a layer of gravel on a normal badly built road, constant cold temperatures would definitely start tearing up a lot of stuff. But think for that effect you need some thawing mixed with the freezing. If you're just gonna bury it in ice it might stay better preserved.

    Thinking about New York in particular, I'm remembering all those weird steaming vents and stuff under the roads. I never really understood what that was all about until recently when someone told me it was hot water piped under the city... Can't remember why. But that would keep the roads clear/slushy unless you researched what that's all about and attacked it at the source. The hot pipes wouldn't freeze and therefore wouldn't crack in the first place.

    But yeah, basically metal gets more brittle and shrinks in the cold, to apply that to " skyscapers, bridges, and other large landmarks/monuments"
     
  3. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is true of freezing periods, where defrosting and refreezing occurs often, as you say. However, again as you indicate, if a sudden freeze were to take hold, one with no end in sight, there'd be few pipes bursting and roads being damaged. This would happen when the temperature warmed up. A deep freeze would render cities largely static, but somewhat brittle, as has been suggested. Think immersion in liquid nitrogen. The weight of ice on certain structures may however bring them down. It does occasionally with snow on trees.
     
  4. Pen
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    Pen Member

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    The chief effect of extreme cold would be on water in pipes and so on- beyond that there would be little change in most modern buildings, as advances in insulation and a better understanding of differing thermal expansion rates will render them less susceptible to damage. Older buildings will be extremely cold inside and will be plagued by damp.
     
  5. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    I mostly mentioned the cracking of stuff in case the cold wasn't steady - and their would be places where that would happen, for example, as I mentioned, the hot water pipes under the city. And I'm sure a lot of heating/freezing might occur about the city in localised spots depending on who's got crappy insulation and who's tried to clear their drive with a hairdryer, etc. :p
     
  6. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    Some other things to consider:

    How long is your cold front going to last? People have learned to adapt quickly (it's either that or perish). In either Iceland or Greenland they have McDonald's with drive thru's designed for snowmobiles. :)

    Will there be large amounts of snow and hail as the temperature drops? Snow generally only falls between the temperature ranges of 25-35 F. Below that, precipitation becomes ice instead. Above that, it melts. Powerlines will snap appart under the weight of ice.

    Is there much wind? The windchill factor can actually be worse than a low temperature. In an area with no wind,but a low temperature, a person could move around without too much difficulty. Being exposed to wind would reduce a person's time outside to a few minutes. Wind steals away body heat very quickly.

    Around smaller structures (such as a small house) if ice and snow melt and then quickly refreeze, they can actually help insulate the building. This is how an igloo works.

    Structures underground (sewers, bunkers, pipers, etc) would be less effected by the cold weather because the ground is essentially a giant refrigerator. It insulates itself. In order for snow and ice to remain, the ground has to get cold first. But the deeper underground you go, the more difficult it is for weather to effect the temperature of the earth.
     
  7. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Also what kind of stone are older municipal buildings made from ? That can have an impact on how long they last and what happens when it warms up ? How much previous frost damage etc Weight of snow on roofs can cause collapse or leakage.
     
  8. WastelandSurvivor
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    WastelandSurvivor Member

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    In constant freezing temperatures pipes would burst, but there wouldn't be much erosion unless there was thawing. Given your temperature range you are going to have everything from snow to freezing rain for weather so you have cold, brittle metal supporting buildings coated in ice at that point. I would say it depends on how much ice accumulates but without much wind and a lot of snow and freezing rain you are probably looking at weaker buildings and roofs collapsing in a matter of a couple months. Bigger buildings might be strong enough to support the extra weight indefinitely but you'd probably still see some collapses within the first year. Adding wind is going to change things a bit because the ice is going to change how the buildings flex with the wind and you will have giant falling chunks of ice even if the buildings themselves don't fall.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    need more details...

    is the city still occupied, with all systems operating?... or has it been abandoned?

    how long a period are you talking about?... in winter months only, or constantly, for years/decades as in a new ice age?...

    fyi, there are cities in the world that normally have temps that low... in siberia, for one...
     
  10. Holden
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    Holden Senior Member

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    Almost all inhabitants (save for 1,000 or so loners) have left. No one is operating any public systems.

    The period I'm hoping to get information on is five to ten years. I need to know how would a city look ten years into a deep freeze.

    For more information, I'm envisioning much more precipiation, in the form of ice and hail.
     
  11. FrankABlissett
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    FrankABlissett Active Member

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    Don't know if this has been mentioned - lots of posts to go through.

    I live in such a climate - we just had -33F the other night.

    Bridges of any size are built with rubber strips across them to accommodate the freeze/thaw cycle. That cycle is hell on paved roads - spring is "pothole season" in Michigan.

    Deep freezes can cause shallow water mains to burst. The cities hope for snow before the hard freezes start.

    Now, for your question of a derelict city.

    The roadways would not last more than a few seasons.

    If there were water pressure during the first winter abandoned, building pipes would burst causing tremendous damage.

    If the pipes were free of water, though, the buildings could stand for some time - fire would be the biggest danger. In the UP, we have many abandoned government buildings and old factories. They manage just fine. A huge radar base in the Sault - several stories tall, and blocky like a cube - has been shuttered for decades and still looks to be intact. A giant state hospital in Newberry has been shuttered for at least 30 or 40 years, and could be reopened relatively easily.

    Hope this helps.

    -Frank
     
  12. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hm, this sounds like it would be an interesting environment for a story. It sounds like you made it a worse case scenario where the government completely abandoned the city for one reason or another.

    Since the public systems are down, all electricity would come from portable gas or diesel generators. Car batteries would also be a good source of alternate power since they can be recharged and easily moved.

    Wood burning stoves might be common, depending on how difficult it is to find wood and charcoal. Worse comes to worse, people can burn wooden furniture.

    Places like hospitals would have their own backup generators. Depending on whether people decided to hole up in a hospital and/or if someone can provide the proper upkeep for the generators, a hospital would make a good home/base for a group of people.

    Sleds pulled by dogs and snow mobiles would make for better transportation than automobiles. Automobiles would most likely be buried under several feet of ice and snow.

    Whatever city you model yours after, look up the local wildlife for wolves, deer, and the like. Since human presence would be on the wane, the local wildlife would be curious and explore deeper into the city. In fact, wolves hunting for food could pose a danger to humans.

    The city itself would be covered in a giant white blanket of snow and ice. With no one to clear it, it would just keep building upon itself. People would have to periodically shovel it clear from outside entrances to buildings. The city would be deathly quiet with no traffic around (except for falling snow and hail).
     

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