Brain Post: What is Wind Chill?

Clay Malott | | BrainsBrains
Credit: UBC

We’ve all been there. You’re on the chairlift, one moment you’re perfectly comfortable and the next you’re absolutely frigid and wishing you wore that extra layer. So what is to blame? The answer is usually wind chill.

In cold environments, your body is much warmer than the colder surrounding air. Your warm body heats a small layer of air around your skin, forming a sort of bubble of protective air, helping to insulate your body from the cold. While this bubble isn’t as warm as body temperature, it’s still far warmer than the air outside of it, and thus makes the air feel warmer.

Weather or Not: What is wind chill?
Credit: NWS

However, when the wind picks up, it blows this bubble of warmer air away and exposes your skin to the cold. This effect is known as wind chill. The stronger the wind, the faster this bubble of warmer air is blown away and the colder it appears to your skin!

So what are the best ways to prevent wind chill from ruining your ski day? Before going skiing, be sure to check the forecast. Rather than looking at the temperature forecast, look for “wind chill,” “feels like,” or “apparent temperature” forecasts. Be sure to wear lots of layers and avoid having any exposed skin. Just a few minutes of strong winds and cold temperatures can cause permanent frostbite damage to your skin. Another tip is to avoid getting your clothes wet. Wet clothing will pull heat away from your body faster and worsen the effects of wind chill.

Stay warm!

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