I’D LIKE to preface this rant by insisting that I’m not picking on any particular journalist, article or publication, but when I read the following paragraphs yesterday morning I felt compelled to put my frosty foot down by writing a very rare opinion piece.
The paragraphs went like this:
Once again, the Darling Downs and Granite Belt region bore the brunt of the coldest conditions, with Oakey facing the lowest apparent, or “feels like”, temperature of -9.8C. Elsewhere in the region, Wellcamp Airport got down to -5.1C with an apparent temperature of -7.4C, Applethorpe reached -4.1C with an apparent temperature of -4.5C, and Warwick dipped to -3.6C with an apparent temperature of -5.1C. In Dalby, west of Oakey, it got down to -2.6C, with an apparent temperature of -5.3C.
Every Winter when arctic air comes up from the south, without fail, we’ll be given two figures by the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) and the media measuring the extent of the cold weather.
One is the definite reading on the thermometer which gives the actual temperature.
The other is a supposed “feels like” temperature, or “apparent” temperature.
Why do we need a “feels like” temperature, and what even is a “feels like” temperature?
How cold it feels is entirely subjective and needless to say depends on any number of factors.
Every time I fire up about this I get vague retorts about a “wind chill factor”, or I have people tell me how cold the air is supposed to feel on my bare skin.
Please. It’s not as though I’m running circles around Stanthorpe’s big thermometer at 6am without any clothes on.
And if I was, all I’d need to do is put on a tracksuit, beanie, Ugg boots and gloves, and my “feels like” temperature would drop significantly.
But the mercury won’t move.
The BOM website points to the Steadman Apparent Temperature, defined as “the temperature that (at a reference level of humidity and without wind) would produce the same level of discomfort in such an adult as the current combination of ambient temperature, humidity and wind chill”.
Ok. So it’s about a level of discomfort which, again, is entirely subjective. You can’t put a figure on it, and why would you try?
The BOM goes on: “The Steadman model also assumes that the adult walking outside is ‘appropriately dressed’. If your clothing is wet, for example, wind chill can be more severe and your chance of hypothermia would be greater than indicated by the apparent temperature.”
Who are Steadman or the BOM to tell us what “appropriately dressed” means? What a crock.
Did the good people of Oakey somehow have bragging rights yesterday because, while the real temperature dropped to -4.9 degrees, their “feels like” temperature was a shocking -8.9 degrees?
Is Oakey residents telling their friends and relatives in tropical North Queensland that the temperature was -4.9 degrees at home this morning not enough?
At my home in Chinchilla the local aerodrome recorded an “apparent” temperature of -2.1 degrees.
Nice try, BOM. But yesterday morning I was appropriately dressed in a Chinchilla Bulldogs hoodie and I’m telling you the apparent temperature was actually -2.2 degrees.
The thermometer – an ancient scientific instrument universally accepted as the tool for providing real temperatures – said 0.1 degrees.
If my dog could talk, he probably would have said the frost under his paws while he waited for his tucker in the morning “feels like” dry ice, which is solid carbon dioxide formed at -79 degrees Celsuis.
But it wouldn’t be dry ice. It would just be regular ice sitting at about 0 degrees Celsius.
(Ironic side note: my dog’s name is “Chilla” but that’s a nod to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, not the frost around his kennel.)
This need to exaggerate the cold with so-called “feels like” temperatures is not unlike the way heavy rain has suddenly become a “rain bomb” or a “rain torpedo”, as one headline declared last year.
When it comes to reporting on the temperature, the BOM and the weather journalists should just give us a the facts, and not the “feels like” facts.