Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Mountainous Arctic - Numbing Dry Air

To start, I would like to say that the following is my own opinion based completely on research and observation. Now, there seems to be a common misconception going on between how the cold temperatures of the north feel and how the cold temperatures of southern Ontario feel. Based solely on temperature, it is easy to say that it is undoubtedly colder here in Whitehorse on average in the winter. However, I had heard quite a few times before coming here from different people that it feels colder in southern Ontario than it does in the north because of Ontario having an increased humidity and, by apparent association, a lower wind chill temperature. Now the definition for the term 'wind chill' is not universally agreed upon. Regardless, it still is based on wind as the causal factor (and not humidity!). Humidity plays a small role in affecting how a temperature feels in cold climates. Our bodies naturally perspire through our clothing and into the air. If the air is humid, the perspiration isn't as readily absorbed by the air and gets more-so trapped within our clothing. The reason you will feel colder in this situation is because the increased moisture on your skin will conduct the heat out of your body (similar to feeling chilly after stepping out of the shower). On the other hand, wind chill makes the temperature feel colder based on the velocity of wind against the surface of your skin. Keep in mind that in both cases (humidity and wind chill), even if we perceive the temperature to be colder, the temperature we perceive can never actually be colder than the temperature that it really is. Hence, with wind chill, a higher wind velocity will increase the convection current drawing heat out of your body (which is why a fan on a hot summer day makes you feel cooler even though you're blowing the same hot air at your skin). From this very detailed description, I would like to summarize to say that:
a) humidity and wind chill are independent of each other
b) the wind chill ultimately determines how much colder you will perceive the air temperature to be over humidity because your perspiration rate is decreased in colder temperatures
I would like to furthermore state that even though I am not experiencing high wind speeds, it still feels really cold! -40C here and -20C back home are not even closely comparable. One thing that takes precedence over wind chill and humidity is always going to be temperature. Any wind I do experience just makes it that much worse. However, I'm not here to complain, and I'm actually content with these temperatures seeing as I have come quite prepared with warm clothing. I just felt that clarification was needed in defining how people perceive their cold perceptions. Correlation does not imply causation!

On a less scientific note, I ate moose for the first time yesterday. I was invited by one of my coworkers to have dinner with her family (her mom and her son) which involved an excellent moose pastry (similar to shepherds pie but with a pastry covering instead of mashed potatoes). The moose meat was generously given to them by another one of my coworkers (who had shot it) because he was overburdened with moose meat of his own. Besides dinner, we had also planned to go to the natural hot springs beforehand. Sadly enough, I will have to get pictures of that another time because we had arrived at the entrance to a vacant, barricaded parking lot. It was slightly frustrating to make a 20 minute drive for nothing (especially when the sign 10 minutes up the road says 'open') so to make it somewhat worth our while we went to a coffee shop up the road to sit and chat.

I also explored the town a bit more and saw some neat things along the river. It appears as if the river, being warmer than the surrounding air, evaporates and condenses on the surrounding vegetation completely encasing anything in snow and ice. There is also a large, stationary paddle wheel boat which is quite astonishing to look at as well.

The parking lot I parked in shows rows of electrical outlets for plugging in your vehicles. No, they aren't electric cars. Almost every vehicle you see here will have an electrical plug sticking out the front of the car hood. The other end of the plug is connected to a heater which keeps the engine block and oil pan warm. When your vehicle is parked for long periods of time, the oil will thicken in very cold weather and a cold engine block may crack when initially starting your vehicle (and if it doesn't, it wears it down by a huge factor).

That's my beautiful baby I've been driving since I've arrived; my 2009 Chevy Silverado (when I say 'my', I really mean the company's). Sadly, I won't be driving it for much longer since it is a rental so I will be given a replacement in the near future.
On a completely unrelated note, here are some pictures of my bedroom.

For now, that is all.


  1. Science, disappointment, art, bedroom shots! This blog has it all, man!

  2. Somewhere in southern Ontario, Mr. Pratt is getting a mysterious hard on based on the fact his senses are telling him that a student is comparing windchill and humidity as independant factors in experiencing weather conditions in different regions.