My alert family members in South Florida sent over an urgent message issued this morning by the Miami office of the National Weather Service. Here are excerpts (with a bit of emphasis added in spots):
“.. WIND CHILL ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM 10 PM THIS EVENING TO 9 AM EST
THE COLDEST AIRMASS SO FAR THIS WINTER SEASON WILL SPREAD SOUTHWARD ACROSS MAINLAND SOUTH FLORIDA TONIGHT… TEMPERATURES ARE EXPECTED TO FALL INTO THE MID TO UPPER 30S OVER MUCH OF SOUTH FLORIDA… WHEN COUPLED WITH NORTHERLY WINDS IN THE 5 TO 10 MPH RANGE, THESE TEMPERATURES WILL RESULT IN WIND CHILL VALUES
BETWEEN 25 AND 35 DEGREES FOR SEVERAL CONSECUTIVE HOURS OVER MOST OF MAINLAND SOUTH FLORIDA
A WIND CHILL ADVISORY MEANS THAT VERY COLD AIR AND STRONG WINDS WILL COMBINE TO GENERATE LOW WIND CHILLS. THIS WILL RESULT IN FROST BITE AND LEAD TO HYPOTHERMIA IF PRECAUTIONS ARE NOT TAKEN. IF YOU MUST VENTURE
OUTDOORS… MAKE SURE YOU WEAR A HAT AND GLOVES.”
Of course this strikes me as hilarious, and again I must suspect the long arm of the fossil-fuel lobby in promoting panic over such weather. I’m not sure if the part about “FOR SEVERAL CONSECUTIVE HOURS” is supposed to be reassuring (i.e., it won’t be like this for several thousand consecutive hours, like up in New England) or frightening (“DON’T THINK IT WILL BE LIKE THIS FOR JUST A FEW MINUTES– IT WILL GO ON FOR HOURS).
Also remarkable as fear-mongering is the assertion that “THIS WILL RESULT IN FROST BITE… IF PRECAUTIONS ARE NOT TAKEN.” This statement is just false. True frostbite requires freezing the water in your body tissue, and that requires a real temperature below freezing (and, realistically, quite a bit below.) WIth temperatures in the “mid to upper 30’s”, you simply won’t be able to get your skin to freeze no matter what you do. Hypothermia, probably, but frostbite, no. In fact, a Science and Operations Officer from the National Weather Service itself says “it is perfectly safe from a frost bite standpoint to go jogging on a windy day in your underwear when it is 35°F”.