How Does Wind Chill Work?

What is the Wind Chill Factor anyway?
Wind chill is an attempt to estimate what the temperature feels like on bare skin. While there is no universally agreed upon scale to determine this, many organizations have made an attempt to quantify it. Here is a sample wind chill chart from NOAA. windchillbt

It is important to keep in mind that these charts change over time so it is only useful in a general sense.

Is the temperature really lower when it is windy?
In a literal sense, no. The temperature is what it is. However wind can make it feel colder and change how it impacts your body so there is some merit to reporting wind chill.

Why does it feel colder when it is windy?
Your body is a little furnace constantly pumping out heat. You may not realize it but you create enough heat to produce a thin layer of warm air around your body. Wind chill blows that layer away so you lose a bit of insulation. In addition, wind can evaporate any moisture that is on your skin or in your clothing and evaporation has a cooling effect. So yes, wind chill can make you feel colder.

What’s a warm blooded being to do?
The key words in the definition of wind chill are “bare skin”. If you insist on going outside in the buff on a cold/windy day, then wind chill is probably the least of your worries. For the rest of us, it is very easy to eliminate the effects of wind chill by dressing properly and covering up exposed skin. An insulating layer under a layer of wind blocking clothing nullifies wind chill. The insulating layer traps the heat your body produces and the wind blocking layer prevents the wind from blowing the heat away. It’s that simple.

People regularly enjoy winter recreation in temperatures well below zero by dressing properly and you can too. A cold day is a great time to enjoy being outdoors. Not only is it refreshing, but with most people cowering at home you have a wonderful snow-covered world all to yourself!

For tips on how to stay comfortable on even the coldest days, please select here for our How to Dress for Winter Weather guide.

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