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National Editorial & Columnists

Go ahead, whine about winter

Soon, we’ll be whining about how hot it is

We admire, and want to emulate, folks who accept winter as it is.

While many of us are sniveling and whining about the recent bouts of snow and extreme cold, there are some among us who stomp along, answering most winter whines with remarks that it’s January, and what should people expect?

There is little doubt this winter, so far, has been colder than most, and we’ve received more snow than in recent years. But, at least in the area of snowfall, it appears the last two or three winters have been relatively mild, making this winter seem harsher.

The polar vortex, which is causing a good deal of the extremely cold weather, is somewhat unusual. But generally, Central Illinois can expect to see a cold weather pattern like this every 5 or 10 years.

This winter is notable, however, for the number of extremely cold periods that have dipped into Central Illinois.

We’re also better armed to whine about winter.

One of the newer weather “statistics” is wind chill factor, which isn’t as scientific as you might think. The wind chill factor was first developed in Antarctica before World War II. It came into use by the National Weather Service in the 1970s.

The factor is supposed to measure the perceived decrease in air temperature felt by the body on exposed skin due to the flow of air. The wind chill factor is always lower than the actual temperature. If the factor is higher than the real temperature, that’s the heat index.

But there is a lot of controversy about how the wind chill factor should be calculated. Some think it should measure the effect of temperature and wind on a naked body (no one is volunteering for that duty), and others say it should focus on one area of the body, such as the face.

An individual’s response also varies widely. There are a lot of formulas for deciding the wind chill factor. In the U.S. and Canada, the same formula is used.

But at its best, wind chill is a highly-educated guess.

Rest assured, if the temperature is hovering around zero and the wind is howling, it’s cold. We don’t really need to know much more than that.

Actually, psychologists say a little whining about the winter is healthy. They call it “validation,” and basically it happens when someone says it’s cold, and someone else agrees. Both parties feel better, even though they are still shivering.

So, feel free to whine a little, dress warmly, stay indoors, and dream about July.

When we can all complain about how blooming hot it is.

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