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What is wind chill and why do we use it?

Peoria, IL (HOI ABC) - You've probably heard something like this countless times. "It's 12 degrees outside but it only feels like 3."

How is it possible for it to feel like a different temperatures than it actually is?

The wind chill index is defined in the American Meteorological Society glossary as "a means of quantifying the threat of rapid cooling during breezy or windy conditions that may result in hypothermia in cold conditions."

You've probably heard of the wind chill described as the "feels-like" temperature too. Here's how it works.

When it is cold and windy, heat from our bodies escapes more quickly compared to when winds are calm. For example in 20° weather, calm winds won't affect our cooling much. However, if winds are blowing at 20 mph, the wind chill will only be 4°. Even though it is still 20° outside, our bodies will lose heat much faster making it feel like it is only 4°.

One of the dangers with low wind chills is that our bodies have an increased risk of frostbite and potentially hypothermia. This risk is enhanced when wind chills are well below zero.

This upcoming weekend will be an example of this.

Wind chills are expected to be between -15 and -25 this upcoming Sunday and Monday mornings. With values that low, frostbite can occur on exposed skin in only 30 minutes.

Covering exposed skin and wearing layers are two safety tips when air and wind chill temperatures become dangerously low.

Below is a chart from the National Weather Service showing wind chill values for a wide range of temperatures and wind speeds.

So keep in mind when it comes to the cold, safety goes beyond just the air temperature. Bundle up and cover up to stay safe when wind chills get dangerously low!

Brian Walder

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