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John Wheeler, WDAY, Published December 20 2012

Weather Talk: Clearing up confusion over wind chill factor

Yesterday in this space, there were a few details about the wind chill index. Many people remain confused about what the “wind chill” is and how it works.

For one thing, the wind chill index is not a temperature. Wind does not make the air colder. An object left outside in cold, windy weather is no colder than it would be without the wind.

However, wind does cause things to lose heat faster, which does enhance the danger of frostbite to skin that is exposed to the wind. People properly dressed can virtually negate the wind chill factor by protecting from exposure. A car engine that has trouble starting in cold weather in the morning is unaffected by wind. The only difference wind makes to a car is that it will cool down to the ambient temperature more quickly in high wind. But a car left out all night will be just as cold in the morning with or without wind.

Still confused? The wind chill index is designed to quantify the cooling effect of wind, but the process of simplification twists the truth slightly.


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