Winter Wind Chill Climatology for the High Plains Region

by: Holly B. Lussenden, Natalie A. Umphlett, Martha D. Shulski, Daniel Ebert

Volume 2014, No. 1, 14 May 2014

During the winter months in the High Plains region of the United States, wind chill temperatures can reach dangerous levels for humans and animals. Knowing the frequency in which extreme wind chill temperatures occur could help forecasters know when to issue wind chill advisories and also the general public understand just how rare, or common, certain wind chill temperatures are. A climatology spanning a 37-year period was created using data from 57 stations in and around the plains portion of the High Plains region from the Integrated Surface Hourly Database at National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). These climatologies were completed for December, January, February, and the winter season as a whole, for the number of hours and days in which wind chills reach certain thresholds. Also included is an all-time low wind chill value by location. As one might expect, results show that some of the most extreme and more frequent low wind chill temperatures in the region occur in eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota. In this area, several days per year can reach -40°F or lower, a temperature at which frostbite can occur within minutes. The highest number of wind chills less than or equal to -10°F occurred in January, with December and February having similar distributions of wind chill occurrence.

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