If you’re in the Continental US at the moment, you’re probably giving lots of thought to how the wind chill makes things feel notably worse than the frigid temperatures might indicate. And, if you’re not, your local weather forecaster will probably be happy to inform you of what it really feels like outside, regardless of what the temperature says.
This isn’t something meteorologists made up to make cold snaps feel worse; the wind really does enhance the chilling effect of cold air. And it works on the other side of the comfort zone as well, as humidity combines with high temperatures to enhance heat stress.
The rising temperatures driven by climate change are expected to change human comfort levels in a way that mostly balances out—uncomfortable heat in the tropics is expected to be offset by fewer cold problems at higher latitudes. But rising temperatures will also affect wind patterns and humidity levels, so there’s a chance that things will feel different from simply “it’s a bit warmer.” To find out, a Canadian-Chinese research team used a set of historical records and climate models to figure out how humans are perceiving their changing climate.