Jan 8, 2014 9:14 AM by Dave Baker

Balmy, Chilly, Cold, Frigid, Brutal?

During this latest polar outbreak we've seen many different ways to describe the weather.  For us here in the WeatherLab we use all kinds of adjectives.  But is there a standard list?  Are there defined levels of cold or cool?  Can the same weather be described differently by different people, or even differently on different days?

Let's start with the more common terms.  Hot, Warm, Mild, Cool, and Cold.  Hot is usually reserved for summer.  Usually 90 degrees would be the threshold around here.  But in some parts of the country 80 might be considered hot.  

Warm, mild, and cool are a little more flexible.  Generally I guess we could say warm is in the 70s, mild in the 60s, and cool in the 50s...but that's HERE.  Believe me, where I grew up, 50s in January would definitely be considered WARM.  Yesterday's low hit 20 here in Lafayette. Thursday's temps will only drop into the 40s...won't that feel WARM compared to 20?  It will, after all, be 20 degrees WARMER.  And a high of 49 today will feel quite MILD compared to the last few days.  A couple of weeks ago, a high of 49 might be described as cool, or even COLD.

So what exactly is COLD?  I like to think 30s are PRETTY COLD, and 20s are COLD, and teens are VERY COLD, or even FRIGID.  Again, that's a normal type of observation.  But when you have a couple of days of lows near 20, wouldn't lows in the 30s a couple of days later feel MILD?  LOCATION.  Chicago's normal high and low in January is 32/18.  So, there, a high temp of 32 would be considered MILD/SEASONABLE and if it hits 50 in January start screaming GLOBAL WARMING!

Let's talk PLEASANT?  Different definition for different people.  For me, upper 70s for highs and 50s at night defines PLEASANT.  My co-worker Kristen Holloway wears Eskimo clothes when it's in the 50s and a light jacket when it's 90!  What about you?

Last week I was in Illinois and the temperature was 6.  When it warmed to 30 it felt pretty MILD.  The coldest temp I've ever felt was -31 (actual temp, not wind chill) back in January of 1994 when I worked in Indiana.  I would describe -31 as INSANE.

So how would you describe the weather?  Now that the "Polar Vortex" that has plagued us for two days is retreating northward, what comes next?  When the "Blizza-hurri-snow-pocolypse-nado-flood-quake-tsunami-cano" will you dress?  Shorts, a light sweater, or a fire resistant suit with flip-flops?

This story was prompted by a viewer that disagreed with me calling the weather CHILLY this morning and not COLD.  It felt chilly to me. Like weather adjectives..was the viewer angry, mad, upset, miffed, or mildly annoyed?


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