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When I moved to Atlantic Canada 21 years ago, I knew I was moving from a continental climate to a maritime one. It’s much less humid in Ottawa in the winter, but it’s also colder… Or is it?
Late last month I received a letter that made me smile. It tackles an ongoing debate that is usually punctuated with “…yes, but it’s a dry cold.”
“Loyal subscriber here. I often read your column and have a question that I’d like to ask: we moved here from Alberta last year, and I believe that a –10 day out there feels a lot warmer that –10 out here. My wife and I joke that the cold in the Rockies is a “dry cold.” I’m wondering whether there’s such a thing as a humidex for the winter? Surely –10 here feels so darn cold because of the humidity. I’m wondering whether you would concur.
“Max Kruger, Bedford”
Your reasoning is right on Max. In cold weather, high humidity levels will make you feel colder. Here’s why.
Clothing keeps your body warm by trapping a small layer of air around you. Your own body temperature warms the air, but your cosy sweatshirt is what keeps it close to your body.
If the air is humid, it has high water content. It’s more difficult to transfer your body heat to water than it is to air. If the humidity levels are extremely high, the moisture can saturate your clothing. This leaves chilled water molecules against your skin and makes a cold environment feel even chillier. High humidity and cold weather will leave you feeling colder than if humidity levels were low.
Thanks for asking Max.
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Cindy Day is the chief meteorologist for SaltWire Network