Dennis’ Local Almanac

By DENNIS McTIGHE

Laguna escapes winter’s wrath

On Sunday, Jan. 14, the only places escaping winter’s wrath were Southern California, Southern Arizona, and central and southern Florida. The rest of the continent is under deep freeze. At present, there are 27 states under the effects of wind chills below zero – with spots along the northern tier of states recording wind chill factors exceeding 40 below zero as a strong polar vortex has bullied its way deep into our country.

Just to refresh your memory, wind chill is a measure of the amount of heat lost from the skin as the wind blows over it, in other words, how much colder we feel the temperature to be because of the wind blowing. For instance, when the temperature is 32 degrees Fahrenheit, a 10-mph wind will make it feel as though it is 23F. An increase in wind speed, for example 25 mph, will cause the temp to feel as though it is 10F.

The idea was developed to consider the conditions likely to be experienced by those working in Antarctica. The obvious problem there is frostbite, and research showed that wind speed was critical to the development of the condition. Scientists realized that it was quite possible to work in temperatures as low as -40F, but that it would take only a wind speed of 3 or 4 mph to make an enormous difference. Wind chill readings don’t really come into play until the temp is below about 62-65 degrees Fahrenheit. You might say that WCF is the opposite of heat index in many ways.

Here in Laguna, we seldom must adapt to extreme temps, as it rarely gets below freezing at night – and temps above 90 are few and far between. Plants and animals demonstrate a wide range of physical adaptations and behavioral strategies for surviving and thriving in environments in which the latitude and climate are major determining factors. Plants typically display adaptations in their leaves and roots, the forms of which may enable them to best obtain sunlight, retain moisture, survive extremes of temperature and humidity, protect them from severe winds and allow them to thrive where nutrients are in short supply.

The main concern for animals in relation to climate is probably that of temperature, which the ectothermic, or “cold blooded” animal is governed by the temperature of their surroundings. In endothermic, or “warm blooded” animals, it may be determined to an extent by the ambient temperature, but relies primarily on internal temperature regulation, which is achieved by processing carbohydrates and body fat.

The wind chill effect is the apparent temperature felt on exposed skin because of the combination of air temp and wind speed, except at higher temps, usually above 65 or so. The wind chill temp is always lower than the existing air temp because any wind increases the rate at which moisture evaporates, from the skin and carries heat away from the body. Take notes, as there’ll be a quiz in the morning.

Finally, honoring the late Martin Luther King Jr. See you next week, ALOHA!

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