Winter Weather 101: Wind Chill Temperatures

Wind chill is a calculated measurement of heat loss. Warm surfaces, such as your skin, loose heat both by radiation and convection. Heat loss due to convection depends on both the difference in temperature and the air surrounding it plus the velocity of the of that air. As such, the rate of heat loss increases as the air surrounding your exposed skin becomes colder AND as the movement of that surrounding air increases in speed.

The bottom line – the colder the air is outside and the faster (windier) the air moves, the colder your exposed skin will become and the faster your body looses heat.

This is an important factor for those who work and play outdoors in the winter season. Colder wind chills can make exposed skin freeze faster (frostbite) and hamper your body’s ability to maintain core body temperature. If your body temperature cools to 95 or colder, hypothermia will set in.

Wind  chill is not a made up measurement in order to hype cold temperatures. Wind chill is a real and measurable weather parameter.

Wind chill measures how cold the air FEELS to animals and people. For example, if the air temperature is zero degrees F outside and there is a 15 mph wind, the wind chill temperature will be -19°F. At this temperature, exposed skin can freeze in 30 minutes.

The only effect wind chill has on inanimate objects is to shorten the amount of time for the object to cool. These objects cannot cool below the actual air temperature.

Frostbite occurs when body tissue freezes. The most susceptible parts of the body are fingers, toes, ear lobes, or the tip of the nose. Symptoms include a loss of feeling in the extremity and a white or pale appearance. Get Medical attention immediately for frostbite. The area should be SLOWLY re-warmed.

Hypothermia occurs when body temperature falls below 95°F.  Signs of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and exhaustion.

HYPOTHERMIA IS LIFE-THREATENING – Get medical attention immediately. If you can’t get help quickly, begin warming the body SLOWLY. Warm the body core first, NOT the extremities. Warming extremities first will drive cold blood to the heart and can cause the body temperature to drop further – which may lead to heart failure.

Get the person into dry clothing and wrap in a warm blanket covering the head and neck. Do not give the person alcohol, drugs, coffee, or any HOT beverage or food. WARM broth and food is better.

About 20% of cold related deaths occur in the home. Young children under the age of two and the elderly, those more than 60 years of age, are most susceptible to hypothermia. Hypothermia can set in over a period of time. Keep the thermostat above 69 degrees Fahrenheit, wear warm clothing, eat food for warmth, and drink plenty of water (or fluids other than alcohol) to keep hydrated.



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