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Weekly Weather Event -Week of January 18th

January 22, 2021

Temperatures were quite brisk in southern Wisconsin this morning. Windchill values dropped as low as -8 F in some parts of the state, and air temperatures tonight may get as low as 0 F. Combining these frigid air temperatures with even light winds can result in dangerous conditions for exposed skin, leading to a risk of frostbite. In such conditions, it is important to wear multiple layers cover especially vulnerable areas such as the face, neck, ears, and hands.

While wind chill is an important part of modern-day weather reporting, it is not an especially accurate measurement. Wind chill’s sole purpose is to describe how fast exposed skin develops frostbite when wind is involved. For an example, if the air temperature is 32 F and the wind chill is 20 F, then exposed skin will develop frostbite as quickly as it would if it were 20 F air temperature with no wind. However, this formula assumes someone is walking directly into a steady wind with no face covering, something that is not realistic for most people who spend time outside in cold weather.

The modern wind chill formula is better than previous editions but still has several assumptions baked in, including individuals having a height of approximately 5’6”, being in the 5th percentile for bodily heat loss, and the sky being overcast. There have also been attempts to ditch wind chill all together and replace it with other ‘feels like’ metrics. Two other metrics include AccuWeather’s RealFeel and the Universal Thermal Climate Index, which was developed by scientists and public weather officials.