Wind and Wind Chill

Wind, but no wind chill. I used that phrase before. I could find where I used it, but it really doesn’t matter. It is just the first thought I had about this morning’s run. There are two phrases from the scientific world that, consciously, or not, are part of our running world. The first, as mentioned, is wind.  The second, wind chill, is the more difficult of the two to know about in our immediate running environment, i.e., what is the wind chill where I will be running today.

The Internet has given us immediate access to trail maps, conditions, lengths, and enough other tidbits that our information expands to become a blob of useless data. Valuable time is spent sorting through maps picking out the “right” one. Yes, I rely on a map, a printed map, cut to size, folded just so and covered with transparent tape to render it absolutely waterproof. I don’t use a GPS unit. A simple watch is on my wrist. I will have an idea of distance and elevation by consulting the map. I could easily write another article about my mysterious lack of desire for gadgets electronic. I might do that soon — it will probably be titled, “Old School”. Oh, well–for now, suffice it to say, I have my map.
a_topoMy map tells me nothing about the wind. The information of importance starts with a check of the thermometer on the back porch; the one in the shade. The mercury sits at 42° Fahrenheit. The tops of the two Western Redcedars, well over one-hundred feet above me are dancing–the music they dance to is barely felt here at ground level. My first guess at today’s wind speed is about 25 mph. My two layers of a short-sleeve shirt over a long-sleeve shirt suddenly seem one-layer shy of warm. My educated guess is that the wind chill make that 42° feel closer to 30°. I have no intention of running into the cold and making adjustments from there. Adjustments made late in wind chill can be too late; not too late in a fatal sort of way, just too late for a run to be enjoyable.
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I studied the tops of the trees again. The dancing seems the same. I watch long enough to make a guess at the wind’s place of origin. It is coming out of the southeast. Wind from the southeast tends to mean warmer than if it were coming out of the northwest. The Aleutian Low brings the cold. The Pacific (or Hawaiian) High brings relative warmth. They are the two main contributors to our weather in the Pacific Northwest and were studied early as I learned, often the hard way, what I needed to know to make running trails enjoyable. Anabatic (winds climbing mountain slopes), katabatic (winds going down the mountains), land breezes and sea breezes and that one simple important idea–winds always blow from cooler temperature regions to warmer temperature regions. Perhaps the simplest lesson was learning which direction to look to judge the day’s weather and what the sky will tell about the next few hours. There was one other thing to learn and commit to memory. Reading about the wind as told by the forest and prairie.

The Beaufort Wind Scale is a series of thirteen wind descriptors with Force 0 being calm and Force 12 being hurricane conditions.
a_beaufortOur (runners) concerns are nature’s signs that tell us when the winds are about Force 3 (8-12 mph) up to Force 6 (25-31 mph). A Force 3 wind causes leave and twigs to blow about, small flags are held out from their staff. Wind at Force 4 (11-16 mph) moves small branches, blows pieces of paper about, causes tall grasses to bend. At Force 5 (17-21 mph) small leafy trees begin to sway — the trees are dancing. When Force 6 (22-27) comes a calling, large branches are swaying and there is a whistling in the wires. You don’t need to carry an anemometer around with you to measure wind speeds. Simply remember those keys for what moves at Beaufort Wind Scale Force 3 – 6. Forces 3 through 5 will give you clues as to how many layers to add. If you think you see indicators for Force 6, you might want to give consideration to getting out of the woods.

Recognizing, through reading the grasses, limbs, or trash moving about, the winds below Force 6 will give a person a head start in dressing for the wind chill factor, i.e., dressing for how cold you might feel, regardless of what the thermometer shows.

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Weather is a constant companion when we are on the trails. Make friends with it, or, at the least, learn to recognize it as winter unfolds.

———-Run gently out there———