Understanding the Science Behind Wind Chill

Meteorologist Ricky Cody looks at how the wind has played a major role in this latest cold snap.

SAN ANGELO, TX - The arctic winter blast of 2018 has our meteorologists using the term wind chill often. A more than four day stretch of frigid temperatures gives way to a unique weather phenomena that we don’t see all the time here in west-central Texas.
 

But what is wind chill exactly? How can you have two separate numeric values to tell the same thing?
 

It turns out, a simple soup recipe can explain that. We’ve all spent more than enough time cooling off hot soup just to get that first bite. That heat release process that gives off the steam is known as convection.

 

Just like that bowl of soup, the human body produces heat that rises, too. This creates a warm layer around the body – almost like a personal blanket.

 

In a perfect world, we could all walk around with invisible blankets with coats and scarfs and be just fine. However, the atmosphere isn’t perfect – far from it.
 

Just as you blow to cool off soup, the wind does the same thing. The moving air breaks up that insulating layer, and therefore; speeds up heat loss by moving this heat away from our skin. So, the apparent temperature feels a lot colder than what the thermometer reads. Meteorologists call this the, ‘wind chill factor,’ or the ‘feel like temperature.’

 

There’s a complex formula researchers have developed to show how the wind effects temperature. We won’t bore you with the math, but suffice it to say that the National Weather Service turned those numbers into a simple which you can find here.

 

For example, if the actual air temperature is 20° F and the wind is howling from the north at 30 miles per hour. That would give us a wind chill or feels like temperature of 1° F.

 

Those sub-zero temperatures can prove to be dangerous when frostbite and hypothermia set in. The National Weather Service recommends dressing in layers including a hat, avoid breezes and indoor drafts, and drink plenty of warm drinks and eat hot meals.

© 2018 KIDY-TV


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