WeatherTalk: Cold is relative, to a point

In southern Florida, 35 degrees above zero is dangerous because many people do not own a coat.

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For all places, there is a normal range of temperatures, and then a normal range of extreme temperatures. For example, average low temperatures drop into the teens and single digits and even below zero in winter, but we also expect a small number of mornings to drop into the -20s. Usually when this more extreme cold happens, there are problems. A few people invariably get frostbitten. Local garages get extremely busy helping people with cars that will not start.

In Fairbanks, Alaska, the same things happen when the weather drops into the 40 to 50 below zero range. In southern Florida, the National Weather Service issues Wind Chill Advisories for any wind chill readings of 35 degrees above zero because such conditions are dangerously cold for people who do not own a coat. Water freezes at 32 degrees. That is firm. But the way cold weather affects us is remarkably relative.

John Wheeler is Chief Meteorologist for WDAY, a position he has had since May of 1985. Wheeler grew up in the South, in Louisiana and Alabama, and cites his family's move to the Midwest as important to developing his fascination with weather and climate. Wheeler lived in Wisconsin and Iowa as a teenager. He attended Iowa State University and achieved a B.S. degree in Meteorology in 1984. Wheeler worked about a year at WOI-TV in central Iowa before moving to Fargo and WDAY..
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