A cold man shivering. Is it the fault of the wind chill factor? A cold man shivering. Is it the fault of the wind chill factor? Researchers in Israel say they have a more accurate technique for measuring wind chill. (Photo: Ryan Jorgensen/Shutterstock)

Brrr! There's new way to determine wind chill factor

As researchers fine-tune the weather metric, it could finally become more accurate.

From getting the kids dressed for school to trying to figure out what to wear for a night out, we all tap an app, go online or turn on the TV to see the weather. One of those key buzzwords – the wind chill factor – usually helps us to decide if we’ll need to grab gloves or that extra-heavy jacket before leaving the house.

Based on a complex mix of wind, temperature and the time it will take for exposed skin to get frostbite, wind chill describes what it “feels like” outside. However, it has some limitations as an accurate measurement since it doesn’t factor in a person’s health condition, age and core temperature. New research out of Israel hopes to fine-tune wind chill and make it so you won’t be over-bundling your children for the bus stop or chattering your teeth walking over to the bar.

Investigators from the Technion Institute in Haifa have developed a technique that they say will improve on current wind chill estimates by taking into account the changes in blood flow to exposed parts of the body, thereby personalizing the readings for each individual. The traditional wind chill factor regards the body as an inanimate object.

Glenn “Hurricane” Schwartz, chief meteorologist for NBC10 News in Philadelphia, said there’s always room for improvement. “It just doesn’t happen quickly,” he said, adding one of the biggest issues he sees with the measurement is explaining it to the public. “I’ve always felt that wind chill was something like hot dogs. You love to eat them, but you don’t want to know what goes into it. When people ask me how wind chill is calculated, I tell them, ‘You don’t really want to know. It’s too complicated.’ Then, I might show them the equation, and that ends the discussion.”

If you're looking to better understand how weather forecasters currently determine the wind chill factor, take a look at this video:

This new, more diverse method, developed in an Israeli lab, intrigues Rob Guarino, president and founder of The Weather Pros, based in Syracuse, N.Y. “I support any changes that can help the public understand the dangers of extreme cold weather,” he said, noting there’s no universally agreed-upon global standard for what the term “wind chill” means.

Brett Wilmot, a professor at Villanova University, also sees promise in a more precise wind chill measurement – something he frequently pays attention to in his daily routine. “It’s helpful both for when I’m running or trying to decide on what layers to wear for the day,” Wilmot told From The Grapevine.

However, it remains to be seen if the new method will end up in nightly TV newscasts anytime soon. The National Weather Service last changed the wind chill temperature index in 2001.


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