In a climate where the average temperature in the winter hangs around 0°F and summer around 90°F, I would think that zombies would freeze to the point where they couldn't move in the winter, then come summer, the decay would be so much that they would just fall apart.

I don't have a specific universe in mind; assume a typical B-movie zombie apocalypse played straight.

  • i don't know if they produce heat or not because if we are going by logic, they should be rotting in normal conditions as well. what is the going zombie rules these days in terms of body heat etc? Jan 10, 2013 at 18:07
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    You need to specify which zombie universe you're asking about, as otherwise the question is too vague.
    – user1027
    Jan 10, 2013 at 18:38
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    While the zombie universe can be relevant, the overall genre has conventions which allow it to be seriously considered. And indeed it has been answered in books, no less such as World War Z and the Zombie Survival Guide. Jan 10, 2013 at 18:41
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    @Thaddeus That has not worked in the past.
    – user1027
    Jan 10, 2013 at 20:55

3 Answers 3


The major failure of this question and almost all questions around the zombie apocalypse is zombies (and the people who write about them) tend to defy all sensible issues regarding mobility and humanity in general.

  • Since humans are mostly water, if freezing were to be considered strictly a concern for reducing zombie movement, I would say, yes, you might be safer from zombies if you live someplace very, very cold.

  • But the hazards of living someplace cold enough to protect you from zombies might also be cold enough to be as dangerous a hazard to you as flesh eating monsters might be.

  • Lack of food, free-standing water, exposure, frostbite and the ability to move through snow are very dangerous environmental hazards as well.

The conditions for their reanimation might also want to be taken into consideration as well:

  • If a zombie is magically reanimated flesh, (i.e. through magical, satanic or other means) then magic is what sustains them (and the consuming of flesh, of course). They do not need to do anything to be animate, other than exist. If the magic is particularly potent, they do not decay (or decay far slower than they should) and as long as they are consuming the living, they will continue to exist. Cold shouldn't bother them, as they are not alive and if their bodies were to chill to freezing, they would, theoretically just sit there until the ice melted. Then back to eating the living.

  • If a zombie is created scientifically but does not initially have to be dead to exist, i.e. 28 Days Later, then they should be subject to all of the human frailties, albeit, they may not notice them, until such time as their lives end. It is assumed the zombies in 28 Days Later starved to death after about a month, if they were unable to secure sustenance. This probably means they were also subject to freezing, dehydration and other mortal vulnerabilities. They were still alive, just no longer thinking, rational beings.

  • If a zombie has to die, i.e. The Walking Dead, before being animated, we are not given a mechanic for HOW this happens, other than the brain reactivating the lower, reptilian part of the brain (which somehow reanimates the body). The zombie apparently feels no pain, nor environmental pressure. They also don't appear to starve, as we have seen them survive winter. And they do not appear to freeze, or to be affected long term due to exposure. While they smell bad, they do not appear to stop decaying, but that does not seem to stop them from being mobile, either. So freezing may reduce their mobility for a time, but otherwise doesn't seem to have much affect on them.

So the mechanics for how a zombie is created and the physics the writers consider when they create their zombies seem to matter more than anything rational. With the genre having such a wide array of causation, conditions and mitigating circumstances, it is probably very difficult to make any fast rules about where one would be safest during a zombie apocalypse.

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    and the people who write about them. ~> Liked it. :)
    – user931
    Jan 11, 2013 at 23:03
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    Freezing a zombie solid should rupture the individual cells within the critter. Jan 12, 2013 at 0:36
  • Yes, that would be a true statement but would their quality of life (such as it is) be disrupted enough to prevent their quest for brains. Al I see is a gross and even more disgusting soup like zombie whose flesh would be disrupted but whose reasonably solid bones would be still capable of being mobile... In an ideal world their muscle capacity should be degraded enough to be less than a threat. Jan 12, 2013 at 0:42

I believe there are two ways to interpret "survival"; whether it would be harder to get killed or harder to die. Basing my answer off of Max Brook's The Zombie Survival Guide, winter conditions removes one thread (namely zombies) and replaces it by another (winter).

First, why would the threat from zombies be alleviated? Well, first off we already, as coordinated human beings, have trouble travelling through snow; zombies, shambling, would have a lot more trouble than us, being uncoordinated and, you know, rigor mortis-ified. Additionally, if their body does not generate heat, they would probably freeze solid.

Now, why would winter become a problem? Well, we can split the zombie scenario into two different categories: the minor kind and the major kind. In the first case, the outbreak is limited to a small town or only to a few zombies, in which case they would probably be easily dispatched. However, the second case, where possibly our whole society breaks down, some basic necessities that we have come to rely on, such as electricity, would stop being available. How would you not freeze without heating? How would you get your food?

In short, it all depends on what you mean by "easier". Most likely, one problem (zombies) would be replaced by another (winter). Max Brook's World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War and The Zombie Survival Guide both contain elaborate sections on the dangers of winter survival in the event of a zombie apocalypse. I strongly suggest those two books for all zombie-related questions.

Hope this helps!

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    In both books, Brooks states an additional danger emerging from freezing cold areas. The zombies freeze in the winter and unpredictably defrost in the summer, creating an array of individual micro-outbreaks (single zombies keep "waking up" over a long period). This might be even deadlier than a single, loud and predictable horde which you see and hear from afar.
    – bitmask
    Jan 10, 2013 at 18:41

I won't write about cold effects on zombie's body as it's indeed dependent on zombie universe. But I think that in zombie apocalypse the zombie threat is not the only hazard to human life. So, below comments are rather to the question's title not body.

As it is an apocalypse scenario, the human civilization has fallen apart. There is no electricity, no fuel, no medicines, no large scale food production and distribution etc. Survivors return to hunter-gatherer level, the more entrenched could dare simple agriculture. In such a situation, colder climates are in my opinion better for survival because food spoils slower. If you've grown or hoarded food in an arctic climate you can even dig a shallow hole in the permafrost to hold it for several months. Also, less bacteria and pests keeps you more healthy.

That said, food itself is rather scarce. In particular agriculture doesn't yield much. Also, it should be expected that in absence of men, wild animals will proliferate. This has definite downsides as more predators compete for food (wolves can be especially nasty) but there are also bigger herbivores to hunt. In general, in colder climates life prefers bigger forms that can build an adequate layer of fat to insulate from the cold. That's good as you can hunt less often and get enough to eat to freeze for later.

One more thing: arctic regions are already scarcely populated so there should be less of both zombies and roving bands of robbers.

As for heating: assuming a tajga-like environment, there is enough wood to build housing and heat it. In general: either you adopt a primitive subsistence lifestyle or you die, independent of environment. The Cold weeds out the unfit aptly but if you are fit enough you can live long in seclusion.

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