Sunday, January 10, 2010

What's in a Windchill?


Windchill is a very popular word these days. 20F, 30F, and 40F below windchill temperatures are all over the airwaves. But are these windchill temps really accurate and more importantly, useful?

Daniel Engber says no in Slate.com. He says windchill's popularity has more to do with big headlines and bravado, than useful science. I would tend to agree with him. Windchill is an estimate of how cold it may feel to you. Kinda subjective. -30F and -30 windchill aren't the same thing. Having been outside once a long time ago when it was -26F, I can say that -26 windchill doesn't feel nearly as cold. Windchill varies greatly because the wind doesn't blow consistently.

What I look at when I check the temp before hopping on my bike, is temp and windspeed. That tells me what to expect. I know what 5F and 10 miles an hour winds feels like, so make sure I have a little more protection from the wind. Two numbers and experiential learning.

Fact: The coldest temperature recorded Minnesota was -60F, in Tower back in 1996. The coldest estimated windchill temp was an estimated -71F in 1982 in northern Minnesota.

4 comments:

m e l i g r o s a said...

brrrrr. thats too deep in those negative numbers :|
stay cozy, k!!

Sox said...

I agree. Windchill is used mostly for bragging rights. For me, warmish days (-5C) and high humidity (70%+) are brutal-the cold burns its way to your bones.
People here joke that 'it's a dry cold' but I'd rather have -35C and 30% humidity any winter day.

'Xander@416cyclestyle said...

WE STILL DON'T HAVE AN INCH OF SNOW HERE IN TORONTO! i miss snow..

spiderleggreen said...

After a rough January, I look back on foundness to those warm winters 4 or 5 years back. But I do remember complaining about the lack of snow, too. A happy medium would be nice.