Wind Chill Blows

Wind Chill Blows

It’s time to get rid of this meaningless number.

By Daniel Engber from Slate.com

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2007/02/wind_chill_blows.html

I was asked by several people to comment on the article above . So here goes…

I am similarly sick-up-and-fed with all the references to what it feels like with the wind chill and all the bumbling news anchors and weather specialists misrepresenting and over-hyping the wind chill equivalent temperature (WCET) since the cold spell began. The message is no less complicated than this: it’s going to feel a hell of a lot colder than the temperature alone would suggest, so bundle-up! …perhaps adding there is a serious risk of frostbite in the case of extreme cold and wind.

It really comes down to this: the wind chill is always a larger number than the temperature. When it comes to the news-you-can-snooze-through, it’s the same-old same-old banal fascination with size: if it’s bigger or a record of any type – and you otherwise have nothing intelligent to say about the weather – its better!

There is a serious effort within the Meteorological Service of Canada (MSC) to eventually adopt the Universal Thermal Climate Index (UTCI) as the standard for both extreme heat and extreme cold conditions. Adopting a universal standard makes sense. At present, the MSC uses multiple unrelated indices to convey the additional impact of other variables on heat or cold. In summer it may be a Humidex or a High Heat and Humidity Warning. Here in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, it may be an Extreme Heat-Wave Advisory. In Winter it may be a Wind Chill or Arctic Outflow Warning. A universal standard index suitable for year-round use would simplify the meteorological messaging and reduce confusion about what a meteorologist means. Amen.

However, given the history of changing standards for the WCET and the disastrous (but mercifully brief!) adoption of the radiative ‘watts per square metre’ thingy, I suspect we’ve inadvertently bred some resistance to change that many folks – Daniel Engber included – will find challenging to overcome.

For more information on the UTCI go to http://www.utci.org/

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