Wind Chill - How cold does it really feel on the Lake District Fells ?
4th January 2021
A surface can loose heat through conduction, evaporation, convection, and radiation. The rate of convection depends on both the difference in temperature between the surface and the fluid surrounding it and the velocity of that fluid with respect to the surface. As convection from a warm surface heats the air around it, an insulating boundary layer of warm air forms against the surface. Moving air disrupts this boundary layer, or epiclimate, allowing for cooler air to replace the warm air against the surface. The faster the wind speed, the more readily the surface cools.
Many formulas exist for wind chill because, unlike temperature, wind chill has no universally agreed upon standard definition or measurement. All the formulas attempt to qualitatively predict the effect of wind on the temperature humans perceive.
The first wind chill formulas and tables were developed by Paul Allman Siple and Charles F. Passel working in the Antarctic before the Second World War, and were made available by the National Weather Service by the 1970s. They were based on the cooling rate of a small plastic bottle as its contents turned to ice while suspended in the wind on the expedition hut roof, at the same level as the anemometer. The so-called Windchill Index provided a pretty good indication of the severity of the weather.
In the 1960s, wind chill began to be reported as a wind chill equivalent temperature (WCET), which is theoretically less useful. The author of this change is unknown, but it was not Siple or Passel as is generally believed. At first, it was defined as the temperature at which the windchill index would be the same in the complete absence of wind. This led to equivalent temperatures that exaggerated the severity of the weather. Charles Eagan realised that people are rarely still and that even when it was calm, there was some air movement. He redefined the absence of wind to be an air speed of 1.8 metres per second (6.5 km/h; 4.0 mph), which was about as low a wind speed as a cup anemometer could measure. This led to more realistic (warmer-sounding) values of equivalent temperature.