Wind Chill and How it Can Affect You

Wind chill is a measure of the combined effects of wind and temperature.  Temperature alone does not give a true indication of the impact of cold.  The human body loses heat through convection, evaporation, conduction, and radiation.  Wind chill has a direct affect on convection.  As your body surface heats the air around it, it forms an insulating layer of warm air against the surface.  Moving air or wind disrupts this layer, allowing for new, cooler air to replace the warm air against the surface.  The faster the wind speed, the quicker you lose heat and the faster the surface cools.

A wind chill chart will show you the affect that wind can have upon the human body and how fast it can cause you to lose heat.  As you will see from the following chart, it makes a big difference.

If wind chill is a problem, get out of the wind if possible and stay dry.  See a previous post.  Hypothermia, How to Dress to Avoid It for tips on how to dress for cold weather.

Here are a few suggestions for avoiding wind chill.

If You Can’t Find Shelter

  • Prepare a lean-to, windbreak, or snow cave for protection from the wind.  Avoid the wind.
  • Build a fire for heat and to attract attention.  Replace the heat your body loses.
  • Place rocks around the fire to absorb and reflect heat.
  • Do not eat snow: It will lower your body temperature.  Melt it first.

If You Are Stranded in a Car or Truck

  • Stay in your car or truck.  Disorientation occurs quickly in wind-driven snow and cold.
  • Run the motor about 10 minutes each hour for heat
  • Open the window a little for fresh air to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked.
  • Make yourself visible to rescuers.
  • Turn on the dome light at night when running engine.
  • Tie a colored cloth (preferably red) to your antenna or door.
  • Raise the hood indicating trouble after snow stops falling.
  • Exercise from time to time by vigorously moving arms, legs, fingers, and toes to keep blood circulating and to keep warm.

Understanding wind chill and how it affects you, can make the difference between life and death in a cold weather survival situation.



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