Winter Outlook: Why wind makes you feel colder

Winter Outlook 2021

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Wind chill is something that is talked about usually just during the later fall, winter, and early spring seasons here in Central New York.

Why’s that? Well, when it’s warmer outside during the warmer months a 20 mph breeze isn’t going to impact us nearly as much as that same 20 mph wind does in the cold season. 

A breeze on a hot summer day is welcomed; not so much on a winter day. 

Why is that the case?

For example…a thermometer in a room that is in the low 70s within an inch of your body measures several degrees warmer due to the heat coming off of your warmer body.

When a fan is turned on, producing a 5 to 10 mph breeze, the temperature only drops a few degrees, which isn’t really noticeable or uncomfortable. 

However doing the same thing (turning on a fan) in a big subfreezing room at Holiday Ice in Syracuse, that same 5 to 10 mph breeze makes a bigger difference!

Standing in the subfreezing room at a temperature of about 20 degrees on the thermometer, a rise of several degrees is seen as you move closer to your body. You’re closer to a heat source.

Now when the fan is turned on producing the 5 to 10 mph breeze, the temperature drops quite a bit. More like a 5 to 10-degree drop compared to just a few degrees lower in the warmer air! 

Evaporation is a big factor in the temperature difference

Evaporation doesn’t take place as readily in the warm air off of your skin because there’s more moisture in warmer air compared to colder air.

Evaporation is a cooling process that chills the body and skin and can lead to frostbite or hypothermia quicker. 

When the temperature is 5 degrees with no wind there isn’t a wind chill.

With a 30 mph wind, the wind chill drops to near 20 degrees below zero!

That temperature can cause frostbite in about 30 minutes on exposed skin! It’s best to stay indoors when it’s like this, unless you’re prepared for that type of cold.

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