Q & A on wind chill index

Dude, what's the wind chill?: The first wind chill calculations were made in Antarctica, but not by penguins.
Dude, what's the wind chill?: The first wind chill calculations were made in Antarctica, but not by penguins.Courtesy Frank Hurley
As we're nearing the end of this polar vortex-driven, bone-chilling weather, it's a good time to review exactly what is wind chill and how the wind chill index is calculated.

Q: What is wind chill?
It's the term used to describe the rate of heat loss on the human body resulting from the combined effect of low temperature and wind. As winds increase, heat is carried away from the body at a faster rate, driving down both the skin temperature and eventually the internal body temperature. Wind does not change the temperature of the air. If a thermometer is placed outside, it will read the same temperature regardless of whether it's a windy day or a calm day. It simply "feels" colder because the heat that we give off is immediately blown away.

Q: Has this always been calculated the same way?
No. And it's good to keep that in mind as we've gone through some record-breaking cold temps. Old records for wind chills might not be the records we once thought they were.

Q: Why is that?
In 2001, the National Weather Service implemented a new wind chill Temperature Index. The new index will usually be warmer than what you would have expected with the old index. The new wind chill temperature Index uses updated science and technology and new forms of computer modeling to provide a more accurate indication of the impact of wind on how it feels outside.

Q: Can I figure conversions between the new and old wind chill formulas?
Yes you can. Click here to get to an online wind chill calculator. You'll need to know the air temperature and wind speed of the place you want to figure the wind chill for. This web link also has
charts that show the differences between the old and new calculations.

Q: How can I protect myself when there are high wind chills?
Here are some good tips courtesy of the Weather Chennal
• Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing. Trapped air between the layers will insulate you. Outer garments should be tightly woven, water repellent, and hooded.
• Wear a hat, because 40 percent of your body heat can be lost from your head.
• Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from extreme cold.
• Mittens, snug at the wrist, are better than gloves.
• Try to stay dry and out of the wind.

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