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Old 01-13-10, 06:30 PM   #1
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'Dry' cold vs. 'humid' cold....

I was born and raised in Oklahoma, and we never really deal with very much 'cold' weather. We hit the teens a bit, but not usually as highs, nor for extended periods of time. I have a pretty high tolerance for cold, I'm very hot-blooded and like to be in colder weather.

I've been doing a job in Milwaukee, WI for a few weeks, where the temps have been quite cold. A lot of time spent in the singe digits and teens as highs have not been rare. The thing is, it doesn't 'feel' that cold, say as temperatures a bit warmer in Tulsa.

Some locals have mentioned in passing that it's whether it's a 'dry' cold that makes it cold of not. I have no idea what this means. What does this mean, and is this 'dry' or 'humid' cold? Does this even makes sense? I thought maybe I was just getting used to it...?

I know exactly what dry and humid heat is. I have more experience with that than I care to think about.
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Old 01-13-10, 07:11 PM   #2
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UA posted something similar in his thread about the differences in cold temps between CO and MI.

And I know what you're talking about as far as the weather in Tulsa. It snowed back on Dec. 24, and there is still snow on the ground. That's not including the piles in parking lots. I'll take snow over the usual freezing rain anytime.
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Old 01-13-10, 07:20 PM   #3
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I've never found it to make a difference whether it's humid or not, or whether you're at 10,000 feet or a little over sea level. Cold sucks.
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Old 01-13-10, 08:33 PM   #4
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dry cold: keep your feet and legs warm because the majority of your body heat will be sucked out from the ground. If you're on a bike, it's not a big deal since you won't be in direct contact with the ground. But if you're walking, it's important.

humid cold: bundle up, the moisture in the air gets into your clothing, making the insulation of your clothing less effective. Avoid materials that trap water and humidity like cotton. It's similar in reason to not wearing cotton in the winter while riding a bike.
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Old 01-13-10, 08:39 PM   #5
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Water in the air has a lot of heat capacity. As a result, it suck the heat out of you faster. It also tends to make things feel clammy.

Also, I'm sure it's no surprise to you that wind has a huge effect on how cold it feels.

The mid-west tends to have dry cold. Whenever I go to visit Chicago in January it may be cold 15-25 degrees, but I can fairly comfortably play basketball in a T-shirt. However, my lips and knuckles get ridiculously dry and chapped.

There's also "dry" heat and "humid" heat. As with cold, dry heat tends to be more comfortable than humid heat, although the physics involved are slightly different.
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Old 01-13-10, 09:01 PM   #6
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When I was in the USAF, I was stationed at Minot AFB, ND. Of course the winters there get quite cold at times. When I would talk with friends and family back home in Missouri, I would generally mention how cold it was up there. Invariably their response would always be, "But it's a dry cold." I always chuckled at that.

I'm sure there is some difference between how the cold feels based upon the humidity to a point. However, I can personally attest to the fact that anything below zero Deg F is darned cold regardless of humidity. The lowest I saw while I was there was -38 Deg F with wind chills between -70 and -80. But it was a dry cold.
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Old 01-13-10, 09:11 PM   #7
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With regard to air in the house, 60 degrees with some humidity feels warmer than 60 degrees with almost none. There must be some point at which the phenomenon reverses.
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Old 01-13-10, 09:22 PM   #8
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I worked a contract haulng equipment for a joint venture between Gazprom and British Petroleum, laying in a gas pipeline in Siberia, and the coldest I ever saw there was -61F according to the thermometer, and officially, -54. The wind chills were -172 to -180 that day. It did get colder, but I wasn't there. The coldest ever wind chill recorded to date was in Vostock, RU, at -192. I did experience near that.

It was so cold, they didn't allow us to run, because rubber tires would shatter (yes, shatter), and steel got brittle enough to have frame rails randomly snap on a bump. It was definitely a "dry" cold, though. If the temp had been raised to room temp, the level of moisture saturation would have been around 2% give or take. Air that cold can't hold much H2O vapor.
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When I was in the USAF, I was stationed at Minot AFB, ND. Of course the winters there get quite cold at times. When I would talk with friends and family back home in Missouri, I would generally mention how cold it was up there. Invariably their response would always be, "But it's a dry cold." I always chuckled at that.

I'm sure there is some difference between how the cold feels based upon the humidity to a point. However, I can personally attest to the fact that anything below zero Deg F is darned cold regardless of humidity. The lowest I saw while I was there was -38 Deg F with wind chills between -70 and -80. But it was a dry cold.
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Old 01-13-10, 09:32 PM   #9
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Humid cold is colder than dry cold. I have an easier time staying warm when it's 20F and dry than when I'm riding in the 40F rain.
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Old 01-13-10, 11:14 PM   #10
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Well that makes a ton of sense now. After iamlucky's post it just sorta clicked. I guess I just never thought of it getting in my clothes, and am kinda disappointed in myself for not 'reversing' the dry/humid heat thing. Though I think it's sorta weird this is the first time I've EVER heard it, considering how often it's referred to in respect to heat....
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Old 01-13-10, 11:23 PM   #11
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I worked in a refinery in Fort McMurray which is 1200 miles north of Montreal and I've worked in a refinery in the East end of Montreal and I can tell you that winters in the East end of Montreal were much harder on my body. The damp wind off the St. Lawrence just cut right through me.
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Old 01-14-10, 04:37 AM   #12
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I grew up in the high humidity of the southeast and lived for a couple years in the interior of Alaska. Alaska was definitely a dry severe cold, it didn't seem to be as miserable as just about freezing temps of the southeast.

Two theories. 1) The humidity has something to do with it since moisture against the skin makes you feel colder. That moisture does not evaporate quickly in humid climates thus making it feel colder all the time. 2) People do a better job layering up clothing in colder temps and dress better for the conditions.
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Old 01-14-10, 06:30 AM   #13
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Colorado has very low humidity (I melt in Chicago in the summer) and I am very comfortable even riding my bike in a t-shirt, a softshell jacket, and light fleece gloves in the low 20s. In MI, though, low 20s is thermal undies, mittens, and a couple of layers. As someone else said, water sucks heat out of your body faster and as a result, even though the temps are the same, you get colder more quickly.
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Old 01-14-10, 11:44 AM   #14
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Wet cold sucks and it's about all I've ever known in a life in the northeast and PNW. Dry cold I've only experienced often enough to marvel at. Dry colds I've been through have been persistent enough that the snow doesn't clump, it just keeps drifting.
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Old 01-14-10, 01:32 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kknh3 View Post
When I was in the USAF, I was stationed at Minot AFB, ND. Of course the winters there get quite cold at times. When I would talk with friends and family back home in Missouri, I would generally mention how cold it was up there. Invariably their response would always be, "But it's a dry cold." I always chuckled at that.

I'm sure there is some difference between how the cold feels based upon the humidity to a point. However, I can personally attest to the fact that anything below zero Deg F is darned cold regardless of humidity. The lowest I saw while I was there was -38 Deg F with wind chills between -70 and -80. But it was a dry cold.
Yeah, you get down below about 0 Fahrenheit, and it doesn't really matter...first of all because it's so darn cold you're going to feel it either way, and secondly, because the absolute humidity, even at 100% relative humidity is almost nothing.

One of my cousins just got transferred to Minot. Unsurprisingly, his first email on arrival was about the weather.
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Old 01-14-10, 02:07 PM   #16
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Humid cold is colder than dry cold. I have an easier time staying warm when it's 20F and dry than when I'm riding in the 40F rain.
What Pcad said.

"Dry" makes it more comfortable at either temperature extreme. (Why do I stay on the east coast?)
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Old 01-14-10, 02:11 PM   #17
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ugh I'll take humid cold anytime. lately the roads have been dry and salty and road dust has been horrible with temps in the teens and low 20s. sucking that stuff into my throat and lungs has not been fun
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Old 01-14-10, 03:00 PM   #18
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ugh I'll take humid cold anytime. lately the roads have been dry and salty and road dust has been horrible with temps in the teens and low 20s. sucking that stuff into my throat and lungs has not been fun
It's not dry in Boston.
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Old 01-14-10, 03:11 PM   #19
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gag cough choke gasp ... uh OK ... if you say so ... gag cough choke gasp ...
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Old 01-14-10, 03:18 PM   #20
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With regard to air in the house, 60 degrees with some humidity feels warmer than 60 degrees with almost none. There must be some point at which the phenomenon reverses.
Ther are 2 things pulling in opposite directions. Moer water inhte air makes it a better conductor of heat, that has been discussed. But pulling in hte other direction is that the less water in the air the more quickly any sweat evaporates, that includes sweat you are not aware of. Really dry air has other problems, lots of static and also it will dry out any moist areas, so chapped lips, nore not so comfortable and dry mouth.
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Old 01-14-10, 03:22 PM   #21
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Cold and damp feels colder than cold and dry. When it's 39F and pea-soup foggy, that cold just gets into your bones.
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Old 01-14-10, 06:36 PM   #22
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gag cough choke gasp ... uh OK ... if you say so ... gag cough choke gasp ...
You can talk about dry when the humidity is hovering somewhere in the teens...
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