WeatherTalk: Where does wind chill come from?

The reality of “wind chill” is not nearly as precise as this equation looks.

Cartoon of John Wheeler with a speech bubble depicting weather events
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WCI = 35.74 + 0.6215T - 35.75V (**0.16) + 0.4275TV(**0.16) where T is the air temperature in degrees Fahrenheit, V is the wind velocity in miles per hour. The symbols ** means “to the power of” because the way this is traditionally written in mathematics does not correspond well to typed newspaper copy. This mathematical equation is the formula for the Wind Chill Index.

However, the reality of “wind chill” is not nearly as precise as this equation looks. Sunshine is left out of the equation and so, too, is the fact that wind is officially measured at ten meters above the ground (33 feet) which is not where most of us encounter the wind. Wind does not actually make the air colder; it merely causes things to cool down to the air temperature more quickly. The system is far from perfect, but it does at least offer a numerical guide for people to easily quantify the combined cooling effect of wind and cold.

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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