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It used to feel like -30°.

I used to pay attention to wind chill—not because I actually cared, but because it gave me a much lower temperature to brag about having braved. It was hard to remember the right numbers, though, so I gave up after a while. Besides, I found it was easier to tack on ‘…and that’s without the windchill!’ And as it turns out, wind chill calculations are basically pointless, anyway.

Having lived in ever-colder climates (NE Ohio, Wisconsin, Changchun, Haerbin), though, I’ve always realized the utility of effectively communicating frigidity.

I mean, temperature is standard, but anyone who has lived in a cold place can tell you it has some shortcomings when trying to make others respect your hardiness. How do you make someone feel the difference between 15° and -15°?Obviously, the numbers are different, but they belie the vast experiential shift accompanying that minus sign. Plus, to blend into my non-US environment, I’ve adapted to the noting temperatures in Centigrade, which few Americans bother trying to understand. So we need new scales.

Some people try to explain their cold in experiential terms. I felt ‘like my feet were about to fall off’ or ‘chilled to the bone’ tell us you suffered, but we can’t know how much. For starters, these are only figures of speech. Your feet are still securely attached at the ankle, I’ll presume, and I rather doubt your muscles and subcutaneous fatty layers had failed to properly insulate your skeletal system, substantial though they may be (one or the other, that is). But more to the point—you’re probably just whiny anyway.

Thus I officially call for a sensory chill index (SCI).

Remember that scene in Farmer Boy when they tossed a bucket of water into the air and it would freeze before it hit the ground? That, my friends, is an SCI—something that instantly tells people exactly how the cold is affecting you in a way we can all appreciate.

As you live in colder climes, you develop an innate ability to note cold. It’s not exactly magic, but it almost seems like it. It’s actually just observing various phenomena. The goal of an SCI would be to quantify some of those phenomena.

Here is some groundwork:

I’m no scientist, but I think this could be a start. Care to contribute?

*Sorry for a long post with no picture, but at the speed my internet is working now, a single picture would add a good hour to the already too-long posting process. Besides, it gives you a chance to exercise your imagination.


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2 Comments

I cannot even describe the pure glee that filled my soul with that Farmer Boy reference.

January 14, 2010 (5:41 am)

@RuthAnn: If it’s glee, then I got the book right. I was a little hesitant which one it was and too lazy to look it up. I’ve been out of Little House a little while.

January 16, 2010 (4:57 pm)
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