It can be called chinook, foehn, or zonda. Winds that flow over mountains and onto the plains are usually strong, but warm and dry.
In the middle of winter, however, if the temperature doesn’t rise dramatically, most winds are just called nasty. Although official temperatures may remain the same, wind chill becomes an issue.
A picture-perfect day can turn ugly when the wind blows.
What is wind chill?
“Today’s temperature is 5 F (-10 C) but it feels like -13 F (-25 C).”
We hear it all the time on weather reports. The difference in the two temperatures is due to wind chill.
Wind chill is basically how cold people feel when they are outside. It’s based on the heat lost from exposed skin due to wind and cold temperatures. As the wind increases, it draws more heat out of your body and you feel colder.
How does wind chill affect you and your outdoor activities?
Wind chill quickly increases the chance of frostbite. Frostbite turns exposed digits, noses, cheeks and earlobes numb and white. Serious frostbite will kill the cells and the tissue will die.
Wind chill can also accelerate hypothermia – a point where body temperature drops to below 95 F (35 C). If you have hypothermia, you will feel sleepy, uncoordinated, and weak. Advanced hypothermia can kill.
What can you do to beat the chill?
- Dress for it! Use layers to help trap warm air next to your body.
- Wear a windproof outer layer.
- Warm woolen mittens (not gloves) topped with a windproof shell will help keep fingers warm.
- Wear gaiters to help trap warmth in boots.
- Put on a hat.
- Cover your entire face with a balaclava or scarf.
- Wear ski goggles to protect the sensitive skin around your eyes.
- Slow your pace so that you don’t sweat.
- Get out of the wind! The Brooks-Range Ultralite Alpini Shelter provides instant relief from the wind.
Did you know?
When the wind chill temperature is from -18 to -38 F (-28 to -39 C), exposed skin can freeze in 10-30 minutes.