Sunday, March 09, 2008

Windchill Is Baloney

The temperature (Celsius) today in New Haven is 5, but it "feels like" 1. Why? Because it's windy: Winds are in the range 33 kph to 50 kph, and the gusts are rattling my poor old windows as I type.

Now, what good does it do to tell me that it "feels like 1?" It makes the weather more dramatic, and meteorologists usually have little drama to report. Plus, there's some scientific basis for the equivalence of 1 degree and no wind with 5 degrees and the wind at hand.

The problem is that the equivalence of today's weather with "1 degree and no wind" does me no good unless I have access to a meat locker with a thermostat so I can adjust the temperature, stand inside the meat locker, and see what 1 degree and no wind feels like. If I simply take "feels like 1" at face value, I will imagine what it was like on previous occasions when it has been 1 degree out. Some of them were windy, some less so, but even when it was moderately windy there were some corners, like the notorious corner of Elm and Church, where it was really windy. Boy was that cold!

If I took all this seriously I would be left with the impression that it is not "really" 5 degrees; in some scientific sense it's really 1. Hey, it's colder than you thought! Better bring your scarf and earmuffs! Which is absurd. If we know how cold 1 degree is, then we also pretty much know how cold 5 degrees is, and if there's wind gusting to 75 kph and we're planning on walking past the corner of Elm and Church, we know we're in for a blast. Telling us what it "feels like" is pointless.

So, weatherpeople, take those windchills away! Be content with the thought that we like you when you're undramatic. You're like Grandma; we love her, but we love her more when she sits quietly in the corner than when she drinks a bit too much and gets her motorbike out. Telling us windchills is like Grandma dressing in a miniskirt; a little bit of nondrama that is at best misleading.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid you've missed the point of windchill. Not only does it _feel_ like 1 degree. The _effect_ on a human body is the same as one degree (to some degree).
If you dress for -10 degrees and it's actually -25 because of windchill then you're woefully underdressed.