Extreme Cold

It’s January and Winter has made itself known after a relatively mild December.  We are in store for some extremely cold temperatures for most of the country over the next few days.  For Southeastern Wisconsin on Wednesday January 7, 2015 at Noon the temperature is forecast to be at around 0° F. When the wind chill is taken into consideration, it’s going to feel like -24° F. That is cold!

NOAA Forecast for Apparent Wind Chill (Apparent Temperatures) at Noon CST on Wednesday January 7, 2015.

NOAA Forecast for Wind Chill (Apparent Temperatures) at Noon CST on Wednesday January 7, 2015.

Wind Chill

Wind Chill is the term used to describe the rate of heat loss on the human body resulting from the combined effect of low temperature and wind. As winds increase, heat is carried away from the body at a faster rate, driving down both the skin temperature and eventually the internal body temperature. While exposure to low wind chills can be life threatening to both humans and animals alike, the only effect that wind chill has on inanimate objects, such as vehicles, is that it shortens the time that it takes the object to cool to the actual air temperature (it cannot cool the object down below that temperature). You can calculate the wind chill if you know both the temperature and wind speed.

Wind Chill Index

Wind Chill Index

Wind Chill

Wind Chill Calculator


Enter a temperature and wind speed:

What the temperature feels like to your body:
Fahrenheit Celsius ° F
mph knots m/s ° C


Safety First

What is important about the wind chill besides feeling colder than the actual air temperature? The lower the wind chill temperature, the greater you are at risk for developing frost bite and/or hypothermia.

Frostbite occurs when your body tissue freezes. The most susceptible parts of the body are fingers, toes, ear lobes, and the tip of the nose. Hypothermia occurs when body core temperature, normally around 98.6°F (37°C) falls below 95°F (35°C). The following table shows how fast frostbite can occur at various wind chill temperatures.

The best way to avoid hypothermia and frostbite is to stay warm and dry indoors. When you must go outside, dress appropriately. Wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing. Trapped air between the layers will insulate you. Remove layers to avoid sweating and subsequent chill.

Outer garments should be tightly woven, water repellant, and hooded. Wear a hat, because half of your body heat can be lost from your head. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from extreme cold. Mittens, snug at the wrist, are better than gloves. Try to stay dry and out of the wind.

Other Tips

Now that you are keeping yourself safe during cold weather, consider those around you.

  • Take care of your pets. Bring your pets inside. They suffer from frostbite and hypothermia just like people. If you take them out, dress them in layers. Don’t forget that their paws can tolerate only limited exposure to cold.
  • Donate unused clothing items like coats or sweatshirts and blankets or other warm bedding. There are people in shelters who need them this week.
  • Check on your elderly or disabled neighbors, relatives, and friends. Make sure they are staying warm.

More Information

Winter StormsClick on the image above for an informative brochure about extreme cold health and safety.

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