Why the wind chill temperature deserves our cold shoulder

If you’re one of the few remaining Minnesotans who actually likes winter, you’re going to have to grin and bear it for the next few days as weatherpeople struggle to describe an awful temperature in more awful terms.

It’ll be sickeningly cold; everyone understands that. So why do weatherpeople work so hard to make it sound even worse by citing the wind chill factor,which is rooted in (some say, “lame”) science, not human understanding, and serves no real purpose for understanding unless you intend to go outside naked next week?

windchill

For most people, the windchill factor serves one purpose: To provide people with ammunition to use when an out-of-state friend — in this case the East Coast — complains about the two feet of snow that just fell, or the house that fell into the ocean because of the strong winds. “Oh yeah,” we’ll say, “the windchill here is -70.” It requires us to disrespect the awesome awfulness of 25-below-zero weather in calm winds.

In terms of bravado, which of these charts is more valuable?

What most weatherpeople don’t tell you is the wind chill factor “assumes that your exposed face is roughly five feet off the ground, it’s night, and you’re walking directly into the wind in an open field at a clip of about 3 mph,” according to Mental Floss.

“It’s a meaningless number,” Slate columnist Daniel Engber wrote four years ago, at a time when winter did what it’s supposed to do.

But no amount of tweaking will make wind chill more comprehensible. The language of “equivalent temperatures” creates a fundamental misconception about what wind chill really means. It doesn’t tell you how cold your skin will get; that’s determined by air temperature alone. Wind chill just tells you the rate at which your skin will reach the air temperature. If it were 35 degrees outside with a wind chill of 25, you might think you’re in danger of getting frostbite. But your skin can freeze only if the air temperature is below freezing. At a real temperature of 35 degrees, you’ll never get frostbite no matter how long you stand outside. And despite a popular misconception, a below-32 wind chill can’t freeze our pipes or car radiators by itself, either.

The recent fiddling with wind chill has only made the numbers less useful. The old system might have overstated the numbers when it said that 5 degrees could feel like minus 40. But after three decades of practice, we all got pretty good at translating from the outrageous numbers in the weather reports to our own experience. When the weather service recalibrated the system in 2001, we had to start all over and rebuild our frame of reference from scratch.

Rather than trying to patch up wind chill’s inconsistencies, we should just dump it altogether. The best algorithm we’ll ever have for determining how cold it feels comes from our own experience. A look out the window gives us most of the variables we need to compute our own, personal weather index. The sight of a few leafy trees will tell us how windy it is on our corner and whether the breeze is swirling or gusting. We’ll see if the sun is shining or if the sky is overcast. We’ll also know how we’re dressed, how tall we are, how much we weigh, and how quickly we walk down the street. We can even stick our hand outside for a moment, to get a sample of the ambient air temperature.

If you’ve been out in -20 weather before, you know what it feels like. The brain, Engber notes, has been tallying up all these variables for you, for years. It feels like -20. Period. Maybe the wind was blowing, maybe it wasn’t. But your body and brain don’t differentiate. It was cold. Your nasal mucus froze. You made the mistake of blinking and your eyes froze shut. The dog peed in the living room instead of going outside. That’s useful data.

The wind chill is irrelevant to almost everything else. It doesn’t affect your car in any way. It doesn’t affect your feet or any other body part — that is to say: almost all of your body — if you have the kind of clothing that people put on when it’s -20 anyway.

If you leave it outside Sunday night, your car probably isn’t going to start on Monday morning. Why? Because it’s -20, the temperature that we disrespect so much we don’t trust it to adequately convey our misery, except last week when it was zero with a wind speed of 15 mph and we exclaimed, “wow, that feels like minus 20″ to our friends, who were — you’ll recall — pretty impressed with you for still living here.

Still, the National Weather Service has posted a wind chill warning for our area, predicting -35 to -60 wind chills, and warning exposed flesh will freeze in 10 minutes at that level, or about 4 minutes earlier than -20 with no wind. The Weather Service offers this guideline for dealing with the situation: Consider staying indoors.

Temperature, we can safely say, is all relative anyway, as proven by this famous Canada-U.S. temperature conversion chart:

50 Fahrenheit (10 C)
Californians shiver uncontrollably.
Canadians plant gardens.

35 Fahrenheit (1.6 C)
Italian Cars won’t start
Canadians drive with the windows down

32 Fahrenheit (0 C)
American water freezes
Canadian water gets thicker.

0 Fahrenheit (-17..9 C)
New York City landlords finally turn on the heat.
Canadians have the last cookout of the season.

-60 Fahrenheit (-51 C)
Santa Claus abandons the North Pole.
Canadian Girl Guides sell cookies door-to-door.

-109.9 Fahrenheit (-78.5 C)
Carbon dioxide freezes makes dry ice.
Canadians pull down their earflaps.

-173 Fahrenheit (-114 C)
Ethyl alcohol freezes.
Canadians get frustrated when they can’t thaw the keg

-459.67 Fahrenheit (-273.15 C)
Absolute zero; all atomic motion stops.
Canadians start saying “cold, eh?”

-500 Fahrenheit (-295 C)
Hell freezes over.
The Toronto Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup.

So if the wind chill hits -35 on Monday morning, run outside naked for nine minutes and 59 seconds, and call your East Coast pals. Tell them the actual temperature and what you just did and see if they can top it with their little snowstorm.

If it doesn’t impress them, just tell them it’s colder here than the surface of Mars.

  • Bonnie

    and accuweather has something far more sophisticated called the “realfeel” index

    • http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/ Bob Collins

      It’s also marketing “nonsense.” Per its website: “The RealFeel Temperature is protected by two patents which ensure that
      no other index can include temperature and more than one other factor,
      it is the only index which can provide an accurate measure of how the
      weather really feels.”

      No matter what you throw into the index, at the end of the day, it’s -20. That’s what it feels like to your body. -20. Your body doesn’t reference -20 as ‘calm wind -20.’ It references it as -20 in all the ways you’ve experienced it, especially since none of us — well, most of us — have ever experienced calm wind -55. It’s just a number . It means nothing. We have no reference to that in our experience to even know what that means.

      But -20? We know what that is.

      Nothing is more accurate or valuable than that.

      • Patrick

        The difference is that with wind the rate of heat loss from your body is greater than without wind. You can detect the rate at which you are losing heat. So it does feel colder. If you stand on the edge of Lake Michigan in a temperature of -20 with wind chill of -35 you are going to die quicker than if there is no wind at same temperature. It is not as complicated as everyone is making it here.

        • http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/ Bob Collins

          Again, nobody is arguing that wind doesn’t change effect. That’s not the issue. We don’t experience weather in a laboratory where there is no wind. So using a particular temperature as the baseline for how a Minnesotan (or anyone else for that matter) relates to temperature is absurd.

          Nor is anyone arguing that if you stand outside in -20 weather long enough, you’re going to die. But, Patrick, you have almost NO chance of EVER standing by the side of Lake Michigan without wind. Chances are if you’ve ever been out in -25 weather, there was wind. That’s your reference point for what -25 really feels like.

          The temperature and common sense is a REALLY good and never changing reference point. The same cannot possibly be said for wind chill.

          -25 and knowledge of Minnesota (or the winter in general) SHOULD be enough to get you to do the things you need to do. The more we use these hyperbolic and hysterical references, the cheaper we make that fact.

          Nobody has yet answered the question I keep asking. What on earth did you do differently today than you did the last time it was 25 below zero?

  • Sara

    You come to my little farm and do chores one day and you will understand that wind chill factor is so much more meaningful than the air temperture. Five below and still feels so much more comfortable than fifteen above with even a 10 mph wind. You do not have to be naked to feel the difference.

    • http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/ Bob Collins

      That it may “feel” different isn’t the point. Whether it’s useful information is the point. Let’s say it’s five below and you have a 10 mph wind. That’s -16 wind chill. Oh, it’s daytime? It’s not -16 anymore. You’re not walking at 3 mph, it’s not -16 anymore. You have fleece on and long underwear under that? It’s not -16 anymore. You’re in the windbreak area of your farm. It’s not -16 anymore. The wind — which by the way is measured at the airport where there aren’t any trees nor many buildings — has decreased. It’s not -16 anymore. You’re walking with the wind not into the wind? It’s not -16 anymore.

      So what is it? In all of those cases, it’s -5 and what you’ve come to know -5 as in the many forms in which you’ve experience it.

      I don’t need to do your chores on your farm because your experience isn’t any different than mine — if you’re <59, it's less, actually — because a person's body and lifespan calculates ALL of the various forms in which you've experienced -5.

      So which is the more valuable and meaningful reference?

      • Suzanne

        Wouldn’t most winter farm chores be in a barn, anyway (thus making wind chill irrelevant (again))?

        • David Drufke

          I don’t know. I’m guessing Sara the farmer knows better than Bob or I do, but if you’re a farmer, you can probably fill us in too.

        • Sara

          I have to carry water from the house to the chicken coop. And it has to be done more often when it is colder outside (and in that regard the wind chill IS irrelevant).

        • countrygirlebsd

          No, farm chores in the winter do not take place in the barn unless you have a very, very small farm and have all of your animals in the barn. We run over a hundred head of cattle and more than a dozen head of horses. In the winter, they stay in lots and small pastures that have creeks and windbreaks, but are obviously not all crammed into a barn. Winter chores involve feeding hay with the tractor, which involves getting in and out dozens of times to open/close gates, breaking open waterers and watering holes with an axe, moving animals on horses or four wheelers to appropriate pastures/lots for weather, unloading feed/grain from trucks and fixing tractors and other vehicles when they breakdown in the cold. Let me tell you that wind chill, out the plains, makes a HUGE difference in how long you can tolerate being outside, as well as how your animals will react and fare. Come to my ranch in South Dakota. You will come away with a whole different perspective on wind!

          • http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/ Bob Collins

            Again, whether the wind changes your comfort level isn’t really an issue. Of course it does. Whether it can be pinned to an arbitrary number is the issue. The chances are people have experienced -20 with wind, a LOT more than you’ve experienced 20 with no wind. So what does -20 feel like? It feels like it does when it’s -20.

            But -20 doesn’t get people’s attention when the weather service is trying to tell people to — and this is their advice — bundle up.

            It’s -20. It’s the plains. It’s always windy. It stinks. No need to embellish it. It is exactly what it is.

      • David Drufke

        When planning outdoor activities, to me the windchill is more meaningful to me than air temps. Whether the windchill is 100% accurate for all people at all times isn’t really a concern to me, it gives me a ballpark figure for whether I want to go for a hike or not. For instance, we cancelled plans today to go wildlife watching because of the windchill, even though the air temp was 22. Air temp to me seems to be the irrelevent measurement. Yesterday’s windless 2 degrees seemed warmer than today’s windy 22 degrees.

        • http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/ Bob Collins

          Today’s windspeed was 13. Temperature 18. Wind chill (assuming night): 5.

          Yesterday’s windspeed was 10. Temperature 1. Wind chill: -15.

          The wind chill says yesterday was MUCH colder than today’s wind chill.

          • David Gregoria

            This makes complete sense to me. Yesterday felt colder than today. I think you’re complicating things. Bottom line, a temp with wind feels much colder than a temp with no wind. Wind Chill and Heat Index serve a HUGE purpose. For example, take a temp of 85 degrees. 85 in Las Vegas is downright comfortable. 85 in Miami is downright brutal. So, just give me temp and it doesn’t give me the whole story. In the summertime I need dewpoint as well. Temp alone does NOT tell me a better story than Wind Chill or Heat Index. I would argue that those tell a much more accurate story on what it really feels like.

          • http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/ Bob Collins

            Windchill and dewpoint, of course are separate things. Dewpointmines your ability to sweat and cool. But if your hands, for example, are protected by gloves at -20, they’re probably only marginally less protected at -35. Only if you have no gloves is the rate of cooling in your fingers significantly changed. But because you know what -20.feels like, you wore gloves.

            -20 was enough to get you to do what you need to do. It didn’t need any embellishment.

          • David Drufke

            Observations at KMSP at noon.

            Today: 13 degrees, sustained 18mph winds with gusts to 27mph, for a windchill of -4 (-11 during the gusts).
            Yesterday: -1 with 3mph wind. no wind chill.

            Yes, sun is also a factor during the limited daylight hours.

        • christianhgross

          I work outside renovating our home. Windchill is stupid! It is an inaccurate measure because like already pointed out once I start moving I get warmer.

          I use wind and temperature together to get an idea of what to wear, but only in crude steps. I have three steps; no wind, some wind and too much wind. That’s all I need.

      • Sara

        I guess my point is that the measure of the air temperature without mention of other factors such as wind speed is also useless information.

        • http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/ Bob Collins

          Yes, of course. I agree. But since the beginning of time forecasters have provided two critical pieces of information: temperature and wind speed (and wind direction, I guess) and you know that -10 at 10 mph “feels” worse than -10. And you know that based on your experience. Then the wind chill came along to quantify that which didn’t need to be quantified in the first place and it was a cute little statistic. But in the last few years it’s come to dominate the forecast and that’s silly.

          No lie: today’s forecast I was supposed to read on The Current today said “low temperature tonite -9 with a windchill of -14. ” How ridiculous. When the spread is that low, you had enough information the moment I said -9. Nobody is doing anything at -14 they’re not already doing at -9; it’s just a silly waste of information and the time to provide it.

          Most weather forecasts on TV could be 30 seconds long. But instead they seem to go 4 minutes that provides you with no more useful information you’d get in that 30 seconds. It’s marketing and showbiz.

        • tb

          Wind chills and dew points weren’t part of the forecast when I was a kid. If tomorrow was supposed to be -10, the follow-up question was: is it going to be windy? If tomorrow was supposed to be 85 the follow-up question was: is it going to be humid? Worked pretty good. I find dew point helpful, wind chill useless.

    • steve

      I walk my dogs everyday and there is a very big difference between between temp and wind chill. In 15º with a 30 mph wind my dogs couldn’t care less. In -12º and no wind they are miserable and I can only take them a block or two without running them back to the house. My dogs are large, furry and they know the difference between real cold and pretend cold.

      • David Gregoria

        I’m sure though you feel the difference between no wind and wind at the same temp though. Bob seems to believe that wind chill is worthless. Ridiculous. Your dogs may not feel the “wind chill” but humans do and the wind chill was meant for humans.

        • steve

          I have thousands of days since 1993 in this climate and as someone who is out in the cold everyday the wind chill means very little. As a former Ski Patroller the wind chill meant nothing when boxing up an injured skier. 15º with a 30 mph wind is nothing compared to -12º without wind. In real -12º your hands stop working right away. The “wind chill is meant for humans” is not a well though out statement. Cold is Thermodynamics not an emotional comfort gauge. In a 100mph wind water will not freeze at 32.1º.

          • David Gregoria

            The windchill at -12 with no wind is -12. The windchill at 15 with a 30 mph wind is -5. So, I would agree with you that the -12 temp with no wind is much colder. So would the wind chill chart. Bottom line is Bob is saying “throw out the wind chill chart” it’s worthless. It is valuable is all I’m saying. Very valuable. Wind makes it feel colder than the actual temp, that’s why the wind chill factor was created in the first place. Not as some “marketing” tool to dramatize how cold it is so we can brag to other people. But, a way to quantify what it feels like.

          • http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/ Bob Collins

            It can only quantify what it feels like — assuming a -55 wind chill — if you already know what no wind -55 feels like. Otherwise it’s just an entertaining statistic to tell you what -55 with no wind feels like.

            But as I said earlier, dismissing the value of actual temperature assumes your experience with that temperature occurs in a calm wind and that’s not likely. What you know -20 to feel like is -20, wind, no win, night, day, whatever.

      • Sara

        My chicken come with their own down “jackets.”

        When the wind is blowing it pushes the cold up inside the insulation that is provided by those “jackets.” So the chickens stay in their coop where they appear to be comfortable at any air temperature.

  • Suzanne

    Fantastic post, especially the paragraph that ends, “The dog peed in the living room instead of going outside. That’s useful data.” I fully agree with the irrelevance of wind chill.

    • http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/ Bob Collins

      Weather maps should replace windchill with this data. “Boogers freeze”, “dog pees on carpet.” It’d be much more useful.

  • David Gregoria

    So according to your long rant, you think calm winds and a temp of 0 feels the same as a temp of 0 with a 20 mph wind???

    • http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/ Bob Collins

      At no point in my “long rant” did I say that. And I think you know that.

      Question: What was the wind speed the last time you experienced -20 weather. The marketers of wind chill are selling you on the idea that the last time you were out in -20 weather, the wind was calm. So you hear -35 and think, “that’s way worse than -20 I’ve experienced before.” But the chances are it’s not. It might be EXACTLY the -20 your brain has referenced as what -20.feels like.

      Now, one can argue that the wind chill encourages to dress for awful conditions. Fine. But in addition to already being a better reference, -20.already does that for you.

      It’s a hard worker, that actual temperature.

      • David Gregoria

        Makes zero sense to me. Bottom line, wind makes it feel much colder than the actual air temp, thus the “wind chill,” very valuable. Just like “heat index” is very valuable in Summer. Because we know 85 in Vegas is much different than 85 in Miami.

        • http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/ Bob Collins

          You’re arguing a point that Isn’t in dispute. But you’re also arguing that the -20 temperature your body has already experienced is a calm wind -20 and the chances are it’s not. People, you seem to be suggesting that -20.is no big deal. It’s a big deal. It’s really cold. You body knows that because it already KNOWS what a -20 day is like. What you think the -55.number is telling you is something you’ve already learned by the actual temperature.

          The calculations for wind chill also assume it’s night and you’re walking into the wind? So what EXACTLY is it’s value in the day when you’re not?

          • David Gregoria

            In my opinion, you’re making this way more complicated than it is. Bottom line, wind chill temp is valuable because temp alone doesn’t tell you the whole story in how it really feels outside. To say wind chill should be dumped is ridiculous in my opinion.

  • KTFoley

    I disagree with dismissing wind chill because freezing happens only below 32 degrees, or because a complex formula has been refined over time. Engineers scoff that the equation’s variables have been made into fixed numbers using conditions that are too oddly specific to be applied elsewhere. Okay. But people should not conclude that wind chill is imaginary, and they definitely should not ignore conditions that really do cause injury & death.

    “Wind chill just tells you the rate at which your skin will reach the air temperature.” Yes, exactly. Wind chill equations attempt to describe how much more quickly heat will dissipate from its source in moving air vs. still air.

    That piece of information matters when the heat source burns fuel/energy in its attempts to maintain a stable temperature. This is exactly what happens when the body tries to stave off hypothermia. It’s all about how much time can pass before the reserves are used up. A person standing outside may lose his or her ability to think clearly or the coordination to zip up an open coat in five minutes vs. the ten minutes that it usually takes for the bus to come.

    Wind chill also has practical implications even when the situation is less dire. For people like me whose car is parked outside, the wind chill affects how quickly the engine compartment cools back down. It likely spells the difference between getting up once in the night to run the engine vs. twice.

    Not sure about everyone else, but that means I have to plan ahead a little bit to set the alarm. And that ability to plan is the whole reason for weather information, with or without the wind chill thrown in. That’s why Dave Engber’s last paragraph about looking out the window sounds like good old down-home advice until ten seconds pass and I realize it’s stupid.

    • http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/ Bob Collins

      Nobody is saying it’s imaginary. As for the conditions, you can probably survive in -20 outside for maybe an hour if you aren’t dressed. Pro ably about the same with an additional wind. So what do you do? You dress for -20. But if wind chill between -20 with no wind. and -35 with wind is significant, what are you doing at -35 that you’re not doing at -20?

      We’re given numbers for which we have no reference — unless you’ve been outside when it’s -55. But we have a reference for -20 and the odds are that the -20 you experience Monday will suck as much as the last time you were out in -20 because the odds are it wasn’t perfectly calm then either. It hardly EVER is perfectly calm in Minnesota.

      So -20 is a great indicator of how cold it really is because, well, that’s how cold it really is.

      • KTFoley

        “Pro(b) ably about the same with an additional wind.”
        The whole crux of the discussion about wind chill is whether that assumption is true. We disagree here.

        We do agree that the behavior, dress, prevention tactics, etc. in MN are about the same when the air temperature is -20 degrees as they are when the air temperature is -35 degrees. But that is true regardless of whether wind is present.

    • http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/ Bob Collins

      You’re wasting time. The oil pan is at the bottom of your engine which is fully exposed to the ambient air temperature. The engine heat is disipating from the cylinders above and rising. A small amount of oil is in those cylinders and draining back to the sump below. The heat of the cylinders isn’t heating the oil sump or significantly slowing the effect of the ambient temperature. It would be if your engine was fully enclosed (an airplane engine, for example). And what little effect the wind has on your engine compartment could be neutered by not pointing your car into the wind.

      If you’re not parking on the street, an oil pan heater will warm your oil to the same temperature given the ambient temperature as it will no matter what the wind is.

  • dohman

    agreed, the windchill is useless to me. just tell me the real temp and the wind speed.

  • bri-bri

    I’d like to hear what your meteorologist colleagues (Huttner, Edwards) have to say about this.

    • http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/ Bob Collins

      They’re part of the Wind Chill Industrial Complex. :*)

  • http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/ Bob Collins

    Here’s another way to look at this. We are led to treat the temperature in a linear manner. -20 is half as cold as -40. But I’d be willing to bet that the danger to me ,–.standing in my long underwater, flannel jeans, smartwool socks, carhart shirt, fleece pullover, parka, scarf and Rabbit lined mad bomber hat (flaps down) — in -40 windchill is not twice me standing there in calm wind -20 weather.

  • Starquest

    Great post Bob. You nailed it. One thing:

    “It doesn’t affect your car”

    Well, wind chill doesn’t, but wind does. If the temp was 20 and the wind was blowing 50 mph, the wind would cool your car to 20 faster than calm air would. But that’s it.

    Otherwise, I agree with you. Wind chill is flogged by weather terrorists to make things more dramatic. The other thing we could really do without is the “feels like” temperature which is so dumb.

    • http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/ Bob Collins

      See below. (Or above depending on how you sort comments.)

      • Starquest

        Disagree. Cold air blown across the radiator will cool the water to the ambient temperature faster than no breeze, which is why radiators have fans.

        • http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/ Bob Collins

          Totally agree. Just don’t think water temp is why your car doesn’t start on a cold morning. It’s primarily difficulty in moving hard oil and loss of cranking power in the battery while trying to do it.

          • Starquest

            Well, I think you and KTFoley are both right. Wind cools everything in the car, including the oil. The oil pan is exposed to the outside air, so it radiates heat, which cools the oil. Doesn’t matter that it’s on the bottom of the engine. The cold oil makes it harder to start, as you say.

            So he’s not completely wasting time if he warms the engine oil by starting the car.

          • http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/ Bob Collins

            Right. It makes sense to start the car. What I’m saying in that scenario via her timetable is the wind isn’t part of the calculus in determining when/whether to do that. The temperature is.

  • Starquest

    Another problem with wind chill is that 99% of people only have access to instantaneous (i.e., snapshot) wind speed measurements. For example, I know that at 9:53am at the airport, the wind speed was 16mph gusting to 24mph. But wind is never constant. Even in “windy” conditions, it can be momentarily calm until the next gust comes along.

    The wind chill prediction maps we’ve been seeing report it (for maximum fear effect) as the combination of the minimum predicted temperature and the maximum sustained wind. But you would rarely experience that scenario in a practical sense.

  • http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/ Bob Collins

    While out driving this morning (a bad day to run out of blue juice), I was trying to think of practical ways to describe the upcoming whether without resorting to an arbitrary number. Maybe you could add to the list.
    * The vinyl seats in your car will split the moment you sit down.
    * Bearings and seals on motors will fail (have a Plan B for the garage)
    * Tires will go flat .
    * Black ice
    * Diesel engines won’t start without preheating.
    * Some fuel engines will run too rich
    * Chips in windshields will lengthen to cracks. Some windshields will shatter.

  • anonymous

    Absolutely correct Bob. A thermometer or rock is the same temp no matter what the wind speed is. Maybe we should reverse the scale. 5 oF with 15 mph wind feels like 5 oF, whereas 5 oF on a sunny day with no wind feels more like 15 oF. That seems more useful to me.

  • John Peschken

    I miss the days when Bud Kraehing got about 3 minutes for weather. He took the National Weather Service forecast, told us what the highs and lows were going to be over the next few days, and whether it would rain or not.
    Do we really need to see all these maps and satellite views? I’m only concerned with what those tell someone who knows what they are looking at. The trouble started when all the stations switched from Weathermen (they were always men) to Meteorologists.

  • TOM

    This article fuels confusion and skepticism and is irresponsible. I am a US Navy Hospital Corpsman and Fleet Marine Force qualified. We spend a great deal of time learning to mediate injuries due to environmental extremes. The bottom line is wind drives heat away from exposed skin faster than calm air leading to freezing skin and loss of body heat. The effectiveness of cold weather gear declines as the wind chill increases, so no you don’t have to be naked.

    • http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/ Bob Collins

      If you just dress for -25, you’ll be just fine for normal activites. It’s absolutely silly that the weather industry — which yields audience and page views so there’s no reason not to goose things up — has resorted to this statistic, as if -25 on its own was chicken feed.

      That you lose heat faster in a wind isn’t really the message here nor is it debatable.

      Two weeks ago, we didn’t think -25 was serious enough to stand on its own, so we stressed that it REALLY would be -60.

      Funny. Today, the wind chill is -25, and schools are canceled. NOW, -25 apparently means something. Funny how that works.

      I also heard a TV weatherperson today say the wind chill is ____. but, it’s not. A beautiful sunny day in Minnesota. The temperature is -17 and the wind chill chart is inaccurate because IT’S BASED ON IT BEING NIGHT.

      You dress for -17 today and you’ll be just fine. Hysteria not required.

  • Exscrew

    The news media pulls the same stunt in the summer. If it’s 80 degrees out and a little humid the news will say ” it’s 80, but humid, so the HEAT INDEX makes it feel like it’s 102″.
    By the way, if there were such a thing as the wind chill factor why doesn’t it work when it’s warm? You never hear, ” it’s 80 outside but with the wind chill factor it feels like 60″.
    It’s all BS sensationalism.

    • http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/ Bob Collins

      Wind chill is a real thing. Heat index is a real thing. I would never argue otherwise. There are physiological factors behind both.

      But. Ignoring -25 real temperature to talk about a -50 wind chill makes very little sense. -25 feels like the way you experienced -25.two weeks ago. It is what it is, what your brain has recorded it as, and that’s that.

      You dress for -25, and there’s no possible way it ever feels like -50.

  • Ed

    Hello to all! I have a question. 25 F or – 4 celsious with real feel of – 14 in Toronto. should I expect real cold or just NYC – 7 Celsious. I need to prepare myself and any additional info would be highly appreciated. Ed.

  • Ed

    So, if there is minus 4 c in Toronto with real feel should I presume this is colder than Boston´s usual – 4 c or 25 f.

  • guestpest

    Effect is not a verb.