In a story I am working on the entire earth has fallen into winter that; exists in the same level and temperature all over earth and never ends. The top scientists around the world have been trying to find out why it is happening and how to stop it. Here are the rules of the great winter;

  • The temperature will remain as a constant -40 degrees all around the globe
  • The cause is unknown and is impossible to end

How will the nations of the world(specifically Russia, America, Canada and Austrailia) react to this new threat?

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    $\begingroup$ Your second and third bullet points make this a difficult question. Taken literally everybody dies immediately because humans can no longer maintain their body temperature. The question might be more interesting if the cause is kind-of-obvious but nothing can be done about it -- extreme sunspots reduce the solar radiation, evil aliens parked their solar sail in an inconvenient spot, a rogue planet passed through the solar system and altered the orbit of Earth. And it would be possible to turn fields into heated greenhouses if there was enough glass/plastic and enough heaters. $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Jan 14, 2016 at 18:01
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    $\begingroup$ Fahrenheit or Celsius? :D $\endgroup$ Jan 14, 2016 at 19:47
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    $\begingroup$ @XandarTheZenon or Kelvin? $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Jan 14, 2016 at 23:01
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    $\begingroup$ @XandarTheZenon its the same for both, I thought it was odd but -40 Fahrenheit is the same as -40 Celsius $\endgroup$
    – TrEs-2b
    Jan 14, 2016 at 23:02
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    $\begingroup$ Would Russia Even notice? $\endgroup$
    – Flotolk
    Jan 15, 2016 at 2:09

4 Answers 4


Any country that could would set up underground cities to act as shelters, with green houses, research areas, and living quarters.

People would live down there, and depending on what kind of story it is they either slowly run out of food, start having diseases that mutate until they become plagues, have issues with power and life support until humanity is extinct, OR people learn to adapt, dig deep down to where things start to get warm again, and keep living.

On a side note; An interesting thing about an snow ball world is that the ice and snow reflect so much light away that it becomes hard for the sun to warm things up.
In those cases, something like a volcano throwing a huge amount of smoke, ash, and CO2 into the air would really help, as the ash would cover the snow allowing it to absorb sunlight, and the CO2 would help keep the heat in better.

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    $\begingroup$ +! for a snowball earth story with the solution involving setting off a volcano artificially! Its a plot-in-a-box; and a pretty good one too. $\endgroup$ Jan 14, 2016 at 18:40
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    $\begingroup$ @TrEs-2b Come on Yellowstone super volcano! Daddy wants to get rid of the snow boots! Some people just want to see the world melt. $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Jan 14, 2016 at 19:00

The temperature will remain as a constant -40 degrees all around the globe

Let's look at what this will cause:

The New Zealand Subantarctic Islands have a tree line marking the difference between areas in which trees can survive and areas in which they cannot. The difference between survivable and non-survivable areas is the mean annual temperature— above 5 °C (41 °F) is survivable, while below it is not.

-40° is well below that level. Plants will not be able to grow at all. I'm guessing that some seeds would be able to survive the cold, but not indefinitely. My guess is that after a decade the survival rate for even those hardy seeds might be low enough to threaten the existence of all life on Earth, leaving it barren and lifeless even after the winter ends.

The weather is going to heavily affected as well. Wind is caused by differences in atmospheric pressure between two areas. Differences in temperature is one of the main reasons for differences in temperature, so with the planet being a uniform -40 degrees, wind will be gone. Air that cold doesn't hold moisture, either, so once the air has released any moisture it had before the winter began, there won't be any more snow.

This is both bad news and good news—wind power and hydroelectric power are both going to be in trouble (no wind and no rain to fill rivers/reservoirs), but solar power will do well (no new snow or wind to blow snow onto panels).

So how do nations handle this?

Without advance warning (which you can't really have when you don't know what's causing it), there are no advance preparations. As soon as the winter begins, there are two countdown clocks that also begin. The first is the time until food supplies for the general population run out, and the second is the time until existing food supplies for the government's survival program runs out.

Once general food supplies run out, the nation's infrastructure goes down. Obtaining raw resources will become much more difficult. Whatever plan the nation comes up with for survival becomes significantly harder to implement unless it can be finished before that happens.

There's no way for them to save everyone. There's almost 1 billion acres of farmland in the USA alone. It would take a massive effort spanning decades in order to build enough greenhouses and hydroponics facilities in order to replicate that level of production. The nations are going to calculate a realistic number of people that they can save, and then go to work attempting to save that many people.

So what will their Ark of choice be? I think it would be very similar to what people imagine a moon base will look like. It will be well-insulated, so as to minimize loss of heat to the outside. Any areas above-ground or that receive sunlight will be devoted to agriculture, with an emphasis on crops that provide the most nutrition per unit area. The nearby area will be covered with solar panels and skylights (perhaps using mirrors to allow collection from a wider area) to provide electricity and reduce the need for electricity, respectively.

This Ark will not be a single dome with everyone in it; it will be a network of interconnected nodes, where each can function independently of the others. If one fails critically, it can be evacuated and abandoned without threatening the integrity of the others (other than by requiring them to support more people).

One major goal for the nation will be to save at least a minimally viable population. If they have fewer than around 4000 genetically-distinct individuals, they'll need to work harder to make sure that the population can survive long term. I believe that you can go down to a couple hundred people and still survive, but only if it is for a single generation and you implement a breeding program.

Each node of the Ark will also include a storage room for when the winter ends. This will have plenty of seeds, equipment, and instructions to help the survivors to rebuild after the winter ends.

So the nation just needs to build as many nodes in the Ark as it can before the nation's infrastructure falls apart (the first countdown) and then make sure they are self-sustaining before pre-winter supplies run out (the second countdown).


Everyone dies.

Some die slower than others, but everyone does die. No question about it.

For humanity - as a species, not as individuals - to have a snowball's chance in Hell of surviving, and thus successfully building some kind of shelters, a gargantuan effort would have to be undertaken by the governments of the world - and even then they would still need years to implement those projects.

And this while:

a) Probably fighting each other for resources

b) Facing mass hysteria, panic, societal breakdown, and most likely the dissolution of local governments

c) Various scientists, crazy people, and eccentrics (which may well be indistinguishable from one another) try to get the powers that be to implement their own "brilliant" idea for the survival of mankind - only so many of which said powers would have the time/resources to implement - all of which would be incredibly difficult (if not nigh impossible) to implement, and many of which would be flawed in some fundamental way which would only become apparent after it's far too late to do anything about it

d) Various factions attempt to ensure their own survival, and sabotage their efforts in the worst possible way.

e) Global order breaks down completely, and various maniacs rise to power in the unstable political landscape, who then trigger conflicts, possibly (probably) even nuclear ones

And this list doesn't even begin to account for just how stupid most people are in a time sensitive, high-stake situation to begin with. Not to mention how ineffective, and corrupt most governments are.

  • You could only hope to save an infinitesimal fraction of the population. Who would you save?

  • How would you convince them to abandon their friends and family?

  • How would you keep the (billions of) people being left behind not to interfere with your project?

  • How would you keep the survivors themselves from fighting among themselves, or otherwise screwing themselves over in one of the many ways in which human communities/civilizations have done in the past?

My money is on extinction.


With the global temperature going to -40°, two important things will happen:

  • The oceans will freeze. This removes one of the main sources of oxygen, sea algae.
  • Almost all plants on land will die. This removes the other of the main sources of oxygen. At the same time, it eliminates all our food sources, but long before we starve, we will suffocate.

But then, the vast majority of houses in the world are not built to withstand those temperatures, and unless the world changed very slowly (over decades) to this new climate, there's no way the houses will be improved in time (and even in case of slow change, only the sufficiently wealthy will be able to afford it; so in that case expect the public order to go down long before that temperature is reached). Thus, a lot of people will be frozen to death before they suffocate.


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