Wind Chill Science

Posted: January 6, 2017, 6:01 am by nsharr

Ever wondered why it feels so much colder when the wind blows? At some point during the winter, most people will hear meteorologists talk about the “Wind Chill Factor”. This factor is determined though a formula using air temperature and wind speed. Basically, the stronger the wind speed, the colder it will feel. But why does it feel colder when the actual air temperature hasn't changed? First off, your body is surrounded by a thin layer of warm air from your own heat. The wind strips this warm layer of air away from your body, making it feel colder. The faster the wind blows, the more efficient the process becomes, making it seem colder and colder. In other words, an air temperature of 15 degrees with a calm wind has no wind chill temperature. It feels like 15 degrees. However, an air temperature of 15 degrees with a 20 mph wind feels like only -2 degrees! 

The wind chill factor was designed as a tool to help protect the public from frostbite and hypothermia as you can see above. The coldest wind chill ever recorded in North America took place on January 13th, 1975, where Pelly Bay in Nanavut, Canada recorded a wind chill factor of -133 F°! At temperatures this low, exposed skin will freeze solid in just a few minutes.

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