Here in the Northern Hemisphere we’re well into the doldrums of winter. The cold, wind, rain, sleet, and snow keep many of us cooped up during the winter months. It’s about this time that cabin fever sets in and that big pile of fresh powder on the ground starts looking more and more like a winter playground. But before you head outside for a little bit of outdoor fun or a quick trip across town during these blustery winter months, it’s important to prepare for outdoor temperatures to avoid potentially serious physical effects from cold, such as frostbite.
Frostbite is a condition where tissue such as skin is damaged, and in some cases destroyed, due to exposure to extreme cold. Wolfram|Alpha has a tool that allows you to quickly compute how long your skin can be exposed to such weather conditions before becoming susceptible to frostbite.
A simply query of the term “frostbite” in Wolfram|Alpha will bring up the calculator featured below. You can update the default values for temperature and wind speed with the ones for your area. (Did you know you can simply enter “weather” into Wolfram|Alpha to get your local weather information?)
In this example, Wolfram|Alpha calculates that at a temperature of 7 °F coupled with a wind speed of 40 mph, frostbite can occur within 24 minutes.
There is plenty of information out there on how to prevent and treat frostbite; we’ll leave that advice to medical and safety professionals such as the National Safety Council.
With a little luck, in a few weeks the groundhog will not see his shadow and we can start counting down to the arrival of spring! Until then, stay warm out there.