Hobart and William Smith Colleges - Discover Magazine features Laird on Wind Chill
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Discover Magazine features Laird on Wind Chill

Professor of Geoscience Neil Laird, an expert in atmospheric sciences, explains the concept of wind chill in an article this month in Discover magazine.

Wind chill measurements reflect the extra bite felt on cold winter days. The formula to calculate that combination of wind speed and outdoor temperature has been refined with increasing accuracy, but it “didn’t start out all that representative…It was more of a way of thinking about [how] these extreme conditions can really be impactful in a very short time,” Professor of Geoscience Neil Laird told Discover magazine.

Laird is featured in an article this month, “What Does Wind Chill Mean, Exactly?” which explains the history and methodology of calculating wind chill temperatures.

As the article notes, “Our bodies generate heat, which transfers into the atmosphere. If air lingers around our skin — a phenomenon that happens in the feathery layers of a down jacket — our bodies can heat it up and we stay relatively toasty. Breezes create the opposite situation. Air, warmed by our bodies, gets whisked away and replaced with colder temperatures, Laird says. The stronger the wind, the more quickly we lose the warmed air. Constant heat loss into the atmosphere pushes our bodies to work even harder so that we stay warm enough.”

Read the full article.

Laird’s initial interest in wind chill temperature was entirely student-driven. “It started with a small project that was conducted by two students during the HWS Summer Research Program. One of those students was Macy Howarth ’16. She continued to examine the variation of wind chill temperatures across Canada and the United States for her senior Honors research and then we published her research in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology,” Laird explains. “If it wasn’t for the summer research and Macy’s continued interest in the topic, the study may not have been completed.”

At HWS, Laird teaches a variety of weather and climate courses, leads a geoscience field-study course that allows students to forecast and observe severe thunderstorms across the Central Plains of the United States, and collaborates with students on a variety of research projects. Earlier this month, Laird and Associate Professor of Geoscience Nicholas Metz were awarded a three-year, $514,733 grant from the National Science Foundation, funding research that will result in the most expansive and comprehensive lake-effect snow database in existence for the Great Lakes.

Laird holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in atmospheric sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and completed a B.S. in meteorology from the State University of New York at Oswego.