Wind Chill or Real Feel?

by SCL on January 3, 2010

I’ve always measured my winter running primarily by the temperature and secondarily by the wind chill.  Wind chill is a relatively simple calculation, or chart, based on the air temperature and the wind speed. No doubt, it is a highly subjective number for us runners, but a good measurement to compare cold weather runs to cold weather runs, and also a good guide on how to dress, if it is windy.  I don’t like to rely too much on this number, or use it as the comparison point when talking to other runners, as it literally changes minute by minute, based on the wind, and also depends on what direction you are running in, or if you are in a place where the wind is shielded, like a park, or a place where the wind is stronger, like on the wind tunnel streets of NYC.

I have noticed two trends:

First, some people are reporting a new number, called the “Real Feel”.  Actually, it seems like *most* people are quoting this number, or at least calling the number real feel rather than wind chill.  I had never heard of it before the last couple of weeks, so was curious to find out more about it.  Well, it is the trademarked new formula used only by AccuWeather to more accurately calculate what we’ve always called wind chill.  In theory it is more accurate because it takes additional factors into play.  I guess the reason I was caught off-guard is because so many people are talking about it.  Yet, weather.com, wunderground.com, weatherbug.com, intellicast.com, and weather.noaa.gov, ALL the places I go for my weather, use the wind chill number.  So, why are so many people talking about Real Feel?  Where are they all going to get this number?  I guess congrats to AccuWeather for getting the term so far into the runners mainstream?

Second, and more troubling to me, is I have seen some people report the wind chill, or real feel, as if it is the actual temperature outside, without even mentioning the air temperature.  I understand it is a lot sexier to say I ran with a Real Feel of 5, than to say I ran with a temperature of 20 and a real feel of 5, but as I said above, the wind chill, or real feel, is a highly subjective number, constantly changing, and based on a number of factors, primarily wind speed, which is always changing.

To each his or her own, of course, but for me, I will primarily report on the air temperature for my runs, and only really mention the wind chill if it is a really windy day or some kind of extreme, like today!

Happy winter running folks, and to all of you out there in these extreme cold temps, you are all HARD CORE!

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Ari AKA Ansky January 4, 2010 at 9:09 am

I didn’t know there was a difference between the two. I started using Real Feel b/c that’s what Accuweather and 1010WINS use when talking about the temperature.

Congrats on your run. Definitely felt hardcore yesterday.

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michelle January 4, 2010 at 8:25 pm

Very interesting post. Here is what I do. I put on the tv news in the morning, see what the temp is and then dress as if its maybe 5 degrees colder. Like today, it said 20 degrees but it was much much less windy up on the boards and the streets even so I felt overdressed with the sun shinning. I know you run when its mostly still dark so there is a big difference in “real feel” as opposed to real temp. Or something like that!!!

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kathy January 14, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Down here (Caribbean) I use Real Feel because it expresses the real feel of the temperature much more clearly than the lower number. For example, the other morning I went for a run, the temp was low 80′s but the real feel (due to sun, humidity, etc.) was mid 90′s. Hugh difference.

Summertime will be temps of low 90′s but real feel of 110-115F.

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SCL January 14, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Thanks for the comment. In the summer I’ve always gone by the ‘heat index’ number, which is similar. But I guess the Real Feel takes more factors into account…

In the summer I actually use the dewpoint to gauge how good or bad the run will be. Over 60= uncomfortable. Over 65=Bad. Over 70=Stay Home! I’m sure you are used to high dewpoints in the Caribbean…

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Berna Whittie February 26, 2010 at 9:43 am

I have been trying to acces this website for a while. I was using Chrome then when I tried Firefox, it worked just great? Just wanted to bring this to your attention. This is really a greatwebsite. I have a few myself. I really admire your layout. I know this is off topic but,did you make this theme yourself,or purchase from somewhere?

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Kate January 6, 2014 at 12:18 pm

No other weather site can use more than the ambiant temp and one other factor because accuweather has two strict patents on ‘Real Feel.’ Real Feel is indeed much more accurate and as of right now, no one else can put anything out there like it.

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Bob January 31, 2014 at 11:12 pm

I just (10pm) checked the Accuweather RealFeel temp in Glenside PA (northwest burb of Philly) and to my surprise it was 37 with a real air temp of 32…a 5 degree difference in the opposite direction than usual for January 31. Is this solely due to higher humidity than normal and no wind? Weird.

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