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What’s the difference between temperature and wind chill?


There are times when Wind Chill Advisories or Warnings are issued, but the wind chill effect is minimal due to no wind, but air temperatures dropping to the Advisory or Warning thresholds.

To understand why, it's important to understand the difference between temperature and wind chill. Temperature is a measure of how much energy molecules/particles have. They have more energy when heat is added and less when it's cooler, so it's a good measure of how hot or cold something feels. This is what inanimate objects experience.

For example, water won't freeze until the air temperature drops below freezing, not the wind chill.

Wind chill is really how we as humans feel. It is a measure of how fast our body loses heat. Wind will actually accelerate our body's heat loss because it pulls heat away from our skin faster than if there wasn't wind. Therefore, wind chill is the temperature that we'd lose heat at the same rate as if there wasn't any wind.

Therefore, the Wind Chill Advisory and Warning are issued based on the impact- which is how fast frostbite can set in. The human body doesn't care if the rate of heat loss is due to a really cold temperature or wind chill, it's just what's happening and both can cause it.

Pets do feel wind chill, but likely isn't quite the same calculation as it is for humans. Still, when it's too cold for you to be out without covering up it's likely too cold for house pets to be out without extra layers.

Matt Schaefer

Matt Schaefer was promoted to Chief Meteorologist in July of 2019 and has been our evening meteorologist for News 18 since June of 2016. Prior to that, he was our Saturday meteorologist starting in September 2014.

Matt was born and raised in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. He enjoys all the extremes that mother nature throws at the Badger State: from severe thunderstorms to blizzards to subzero temperatures.

Matt studied meteorology in the Midwest as well, earning his Bachelor’s of Science in Meteorology at Valparaiso University in Indiana. There, Matt was heavily involved in VUTV Weather, the Valpo student chapter of AMS/NWA, and VUSIT (Valparaiso University Storm Intercept Team). He’s logged more than 20,000 miles chasing and studying severe storms all across the country and witnessed nine tornadoes including six in one day!

Matt describes himself as a Wisconsin boy at heart and enjoys cheering for the Packers, Brewers, Badgers, and Admirals just to name a few. He loves simply being outdoors and enjoys the Wisconsin wilderness especially in fall, and whitetail deer season!

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