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John Myers, Forum Communications, Published October 27 2012

Weather Service dumps ‘extreme cold’ advisories, going back to old 'wind chill' terminology

DULUTH, Minn. - The National Weather Service says an experimental effort to warn people of dangerously cold weather didn’t work out so well, so it is dumping “extreme cold warnings” in favor of the old-fashioned wind-chill advisories.

“The extreme cold experiment is defunct,” said Dan Miller, science and operations officer at the Weather Service office in Duluth.

But don’t worry — the Weather Service doesn’t expect to declare any kind of cold advisory in the near future. After all, it will take a wind chill of 25 below zero to get a wind-chill advisory and 40 below for a warning. Those probably are a couple of months away.

The extreme cold experiment was tried across Minnesota and the Dakotas over

the past two winters. It was intended to offer some sort of Weather Service advice for very cold weather that often doesn’t involve wind. Cold, calm nights in January that hit 40 below can be dangerous if people don’t take precautions, it was noted, and the Weather Service never had a system to say that.

But apparently the extreme cold warning was confusing to some people, including people from other states who hadn’t heard the term before, and the Weather Service is now going back to wind-chill advisories and warnings. There also was some misunderstanding because different cities had higher and lower thresholds of how cold it had to be to reach extreme.

“We had different thresholds for different (Weather Service) offices within the same region, and it was causing some confusion,” Miller said. “So it’s back to what we had before.”

Miller said that, in all of the Dakotas and Minnesota, the extreme cold warning was only used two or three times over the past two winters.

Miller said forecasters will have the leeway to issue wind-chill warnings and advisories before thresholds are met early in the winter and may hold off later in the winter when Northlanders are used to the cold.

Meanwhile, the official winter forecast now looks to have near-normal temperatures but below-normal snowfall for November, December and January across the Northland, according to the National Climate Prediction Center forecast released recently. There seem to be no major indicators trending away from normal temperatures, especially with the expected El Nino warming of the Pacific Ocean weakening of late.