Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Heat Escapes

To my son Tommy,

It is bitter cold today in Maryland, as it was yesterday as well.  Tomorrow looks no better and Friday has a high chance for some winter precipitation.  I thought I would pass on some practical advice that was passed down to me from your Grandpa Leo for dealing with bad weather.

First off, you should know that your grandpa knows what he is talking about.  In his stint in the army he has seen some harsh weather conditions and unfortunately the military, unlike the rest of the government and most businesses, does not accept weather as an excuse for not doing your job.  In one of his last stations, Major Downey was the commander of a support element out of Camp Darby, Italy.  This would send him and his troops from one extreme climate to another.  From the wind blown barren wastelands of Turkey to the extreme northern lights in Norway and who knows where else.  So when he talks about how to keep warm or how to stay cool or how not to pee in your own face in a windstorm (true advice given to me at age 12) you can be assured he knows what he is talking about.

The first thing he points out is heat rises and ninety percent of your heat escapes from your head and neck.  He laughs at all the people walking around with layer upon layer of clothes and coats but still not wearing a simple hat and scarf.  If you want to stay warm put on a watch cap and a scarf.  I used this tactic when I was younger (and dumber) to impress people in the bar when it got cold.  I would wear shorts and t-shirts in the snow but would always have a hat and scarf on and be perfectly fine.  The shock factor of seeing such a sight ended up getting me better tips and gave all my bar patrons something to talk about.  Of course with the amount of alcohol I consumed in my twenties, I had a permanent false sense of warmth coursing through my veins.

The next thing he tends to point out is cloud cover means warmth.  So many people think clear and sunny skies in the winter mean warmer days.  In Norway, your grandpa would dread clear skies.  Just like a hat keeps the heat in your body, cloud cover can keep the heat on the ground, especially at night.  If you can see the stars in a clear sky, all the heat that came from the day is just flowing up and up and out.

Wool is one of the best materials for keeping you warm.  Your grandpa Leo swore by this even though wool would irritate his skin because of a mild allergy.  He pointed out that sweat and wet from your body destroyed the ability of most materials to keep you warm.  Wool was the exception.  Of course water and general wetness is your enemy on any cold day, but if you can't stay perfectly dry, wool was the way to go.

The other enemy to go along with dampness is the wind.  Every news cast in the cold days has two temperatures.  One tells you the actual days temperature the other what it feels like with the wind blowing on you.  Evaporation is a cooling process for the body and works most effectively with lots of wind and water.  This knowledge lets you defend against this process in the winter and use the process to your benefit in the summer.  Your grandfather is always big on science and with a little bit of knowledge you can swing things to your benefit easily.

Well that is all the advice fit for print.  I could go on to other tidbits like which part of the body is the warmest and thus where you should stick your feet on your buddy to insure no frostbit toes, but information like that is best supplied by your Grandpa Leo in person.  If you were anything like me, it will take some time to believe the army trained him on procedures like that.  The only advice I can add is staying inside and snuggling with your mommy is probably the most enjoyable way of keeping warm on a cold blustery day.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

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