Environment Canada plans changes to “wind chill” warnings

Yes, it's cold. But do simple numbers tell whole story? Photo: Lucy Martin

Do simple numbers tell whole story? Photo: Lucy Martin

This isn’t breaking news, nor will it happen right away. But it’s sure timely, as everyone is feeling the weather right now and trying to find ways to describe just how cold it is out there.

As reported by various news outlets in Canada, Environment Canada plans to revise the current warnings meant to protect against frostbite or worse. CBC quoted Blair Morrow, an Environment Canada meteorologist who is working on the changes:

Morrow said when the new system is introduced, perhaps as early as in 2014, Canadians will no longer see separate wind chill warnings in Environment Canada forecasts or on its website.

Wind chill and cold temperatures will be included together in the Extreme Cold Warnings.

“When the program is implemented, the new Extreme Cold Warning will be issued in situations of cold temperature and light winds to allow Canadians to take necessary steps to protect their health.”

In Boxers have talked about weather measurements before, such as wind chill and humidex. What do you think? Are proposed changes an improvement, or just more imprecise, “feels like” guestimates?

I enjoyed the way the Toronto Star framed the topic:

Environment Canada senior climatologist Dave Phillips said about 100 people die of cold-related causes each year. Many more suffer from frostbite and less serious frostnip.

This happens despite the fact that detailed weather forecasts and information are more readily available than ever before.

Phillips said one only has to watch motorists drive during the first snowstorm of the season and see how people dress during the first bad cold snap to realize many Canadians forget they live in the second-coldest country in the world after Russia.

“Educating Canadians about the weather could go on forever,” Phillips said.

Ain’t that the truth!

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4 Comments on “Environment Canada plans changes to “wind chill” warnings”

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  1. Michael Martin says:

    Further dumbing down of North America. People aren’t too stupid to understand the concept of wind chill (really don’t need to tell us what it means every time you mention it). We get that cold plus wind equals really cold, just as heat plus humidity equals really hot. People are just too stupid to take reasonable precautions.

  2. Pete Klein says:

    Frankly, I don’t care. Obviously, the wind can make an air temperature feel colder. So too can higher levels of humidity make the air temperature feel colder. But you always knew this without the weather bureau telling you this.
    As Bob Dylan sang, “You don’t need a weatherman to tell you which way the wind is blowing.”

  3. Walker says:

    Maybe so, Pete. But I find it useful to know before I step outside.

  4. Lucy Martin says:

    Speaking personally, I tend to agree with Michael Martin’s comment. Real temperatures and wind speeds are useful facts. After that things often veer into theatrics.

    Quite recently some reporting in Canada (about the last deep freeze and the one coming up) is actually neglecting to state real temperature in favor of breathless recitations of the “feels like” factors. Screaming “feels like minus 40 C!!” smacks of employing fear to increase the dramatic value of the newscast.

    News reporting ought to dial that back a few notches, in my opinion. And the general public needs to own their own responsibility to think a bit and take simple precautions. Having said all that, it can be cold out there. Bundle up and play it safe. (End of grumpy rant!)

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