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The Wind Chill Factor: A weather hype ploy or a real thing. A HS&S Investigation

With the recent cold spells this winter, both locally and nationally, the wind chill factor has been getting a lot of run in the media.  Often I hear people discount the wind chill as just a made up number that is really of no consequence. Others think it is just a hype ploy to make the weather seem more extreme.  So does the wind chill really make a difference or is it just a hype vehicle? I investigate.

It turns out that wind chill really does have some teeth to it.  Here’s why: the heat produce by your body warms a thin layer of air surrounding your skin, providing somewhat of a protective buffer.  However when the wind is blowing this warm layer gets blown away leaving no barrier between your skin and the cold air.  If you are exposed long enough and the wind is strong enough your skin will cool to the ambient temperature of the air.  Since your body is acclimated to having that thin layer of body heat it isn’t used to feeling what a certain temperature actually feels like on your skin. That’s why the windchill makes your body feel like its colder than it actually is.

wind chill

Wind chill chart from the National Weather Service. Also showing how quickly you can get frostbite in certain conditions.

So maybe your saying now, “ok, I get that it feels colder but so what”.  Well the windchill isn’t just a mental thing you can will your way through.  It actually has dangerous consequences if the temperature is cold enough, like speeding up the onset of frostbite and hypothermia. Without that buffer of body heat your body has a hard time regulating its temperature and your skin can begin to freeze.

So there you have it the wind chill is actually a thing.

 

Find me on Twitter @stephenuzick

 

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