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RealFeel This.

December 5, 2010

I was just perusing Gothamist and I read this:

Bundle Up!

We knew it would be cold today, but AccuWeather says the 30 degree temperature right now feels like 19 degrees. And while the temperature is expected to hit 36 degrees, according to WCBS 2, “Wind between 10 to 20 mph could bring the dry, cold air down to the teens as a flow from the northwest continues to keep the city around freezing.”

I get it. It’s cold. And because it’s windy it feels even colder.

As anonymous guy will be happy to tell you, I have a longstanding and, some would say, possibly irrational peeve against the use of “wind chill” numbers. It has always struck me as part of the dumbing down of our world. Like if someone gives us two pieces of data, we couldn’t possibly synthesize them in our brains to realize that 30 degrees with no wind feels different from 30 degrees with 10 to 20 mile per hour gusts.

But apparently people think we can’t synthesize that information, so they make up a number that doesn’t mean anything. Because, despite what they tell you, it’s still 30 degrees out, regardless of what the wind is. It just sucks more when it’s windy.

This is all part of our strange need to encapsulate every piece of information into a single number. As a baseball fan, this has become pretty obvious. These days, even the likes of Joe Morgan (at least when he still had a job) cite OPS as a statistic. OPS is a good example. It’s simply the addition of two other stats, On-Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage. So if a guy has an OBP of .300 (which really sucks) and a .500 SLG, he has an .800 OPS (say, oh, Dave Kingman — although .300 may be a bit high there). And if a guy has an OBP of .390 (which is really good) and a SLG of .410 (say Ichiro!) he also has an OPS of .800. Generally, people these days would recognize that the second player is much better than the first (even possibly Joe Morgan), but the new “advanced” synthesized stat makes them look the same. The whole is considerably less than the sum of its parts.

Same thing with the wind chill and RealFeel nonsense. It gives you less and less information and decides for you that sometimes 92 degrees feels like 118 degrees, and sometimes it feels like 86 degrees. The stupidity of all of this is highlighted by the AccuWeather description:

The Exclusive AccuWeather RealFeel Temperature is an index that describes what the temperature really feels like. It is a unique composite of the effects of temperature, wind, humidity, sunshine intensity, cloudiness, precipitation and elevation on the human body–everything that affects how warm or cold a person feels.

Temperature by itself gives only part of the picture. Other measures, like the Wind Chill or Heat Index, include temperature and only one additional element like wind speed or humidity and many are designed to measure effects on an inanimate object or an unclothed person. None of them tell what it really feels like to an appropriately dressed person. Only The RealFeel Temperature includes everything that affects how warm or cold a person feels.

Fuck you. Tell me the goddamn temperature, tell me the wind, tell me the humidity and I’ll figure how I think I’ll “really feel” all by myself, thank you very much. Assholes.

UPDATE: A savvy reader points out that I really should have linked to the best weather site (with due recognition of Steve DeMartino, linked over at the right): TheFuckingWeather.Com, which, in lieu of all the RealFeel nonsense, simply tells it like it is:



Wear a fucking jacket.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 5, 2010 2:56 pm

    I’ve never understood all the hubub about weather either. I get my weather report by opening up the window and sticking my head outside. Although, having said that, rules!

  2. December 6, 2010 11:49 am

    Perhaps I’m less meteorologically inclined than others, the ins and outs of high pressure systems, low pressure systems, barometer readings, inversions, wind directions, etc are not that interesting to me, so I happen to find the wind chill factor to be a useful bit of information. It sums up several pieces of weather information into one handy number. Sure it’s imperfect, and having all the information laid out in front of me , along with doppler imaging, would give me a more accurate idea of what to expect when I walk out my door. But really all I want is a quick “it’s nice out”, “you’re going to freeze your kischkes off” etc. and the windchill does that.

    Just like OPS may not sufficiently reveal the different values of Kingman and Ichiro, the number and some baseline information filed away in the old coconut, as I do with the weather, gives me a pretty good thumbnail of what is going on.

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