WeatherTalk: What's the wind chill?

The Wind Chill Index has only been in common usage since the late 1960s and early 1970s

Cartoon of John Wheeler with a speech bubble depicting weather events
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You hear it all the time. What’s the wind chill? Can you imagine going through a winter without this numerical fixation? Did you know that the Wind Chill Index has only been in common usage since the late 1960s and early 1970s? Prior to that, we could only add the term “windy” to our temperatures. The original wind chill formula was developed by the U.S. military during the 1950s for arctic maneuvers. But their science was hastily done, and the values it gave were ridiculously low.

During the 1980s, many meteorologists began to argue for a new index based on more accurate experimentation. After extensive testing, the improved Wind Chill Index we use today was adopted by the National Weather Service in 2001. So if you recall weather reports from the past with 80 to 100 below wind chills, you should know that the weather was probably not as cold as you remember.

Related Topics: WEATHER
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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