Think You Lose Most of Your Body Heat Through Your Head? Read This.
"Put on a hat," they say. "You'll catch a cold," they say. Well, you know what?! Moms have no idea what they're talking about. Yet, they (and the occasional global-warming denier) have managed to perpetuate certain cold weather myths for years. So since it's about to get a bit nippy out there, we -- and some expert weathermen -- busted a few bogus winter beliefs.
Myth: Being cold causes the common cold
Fact: Although WebMD is normally only useful if you want to convince yourself you have a terminal illness at 3am, it’s sometimes informative. The hypochondriac’s favorite site cites a doctor at the Cleveland Clinic who says there’s no correlation between the common cold and the temperature being cold. In fact, staying indoors can make you more susceptible to sickness. If you’re stuck in there with a bunch of other people, you’re “more readily exposed to carriers of the viruses that cause colds.” So if you want to avoid a cold this winter, your best bet is to live alone in the middle of nowhere.
Myth: Nor’easters take place in the Northeast
Fact: “Nor’easters get their name not because they happen in the Northeast or because they move Northeast,” says our pal Mike Bettes from The Weather Channel. “It’s the direction of the wind flow.” And Nor’easters aren’t always snowstorms, either. For example, in 2009 the Carolinas and Virginia suffered from a Nor’easter "from the remnants of Hurricane Ida's mid-level circulation" that caused high winds and flooding.
Myth: Snow debunks global warming
Fact: “The truth of the matter is that until it gets really warm -- and I actually wrote this in the National Assessment -- we should expect bigger snowstorms," says Michael Wehner, a senior staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who studies climate change. Only temporarily, though, he notes. Eventually Earth will be so warm that snow will be a "rare event" in certain places. Hopefully we’ll see snow more frequently than the Cubs win the World Series.
Myth: Blizzards and snowstorms are the same thing
Fact: Nope! Snowstorms can be devastating on their own, sure, but The National Weather Service defines blizzards as "large amounts of snow or blowing snow, with winds in excess of 35mph and visibilities of less than 1/4 mile for an extended period of time (at least three hours)."
Myth: You lose most of your body heat through your head
Fact: When researchers dunked people into super cold water, they found that even when the head is submerged, it only “adds 10% to your overall heat loss.” As in, not most of your body heat. And, of course, this research comes from the University of Manitoba, where 10% of the students are yetis, probably.
Myth: Suicides spike around the winter holidays
Fact: The CDC is none too happy about this one, as they believe the misinformation might hamper prevention efforts. In fact, the rate is the lowest in December and peaks around spring and fall. Regardless of when it happens most frequently, though, suicide is still a serious health issue. It's the “10th leading cause of death for all Americans."
Myth: You must pump your brakes when your car slides out of control
Fact: Check your model, but most modern cars have an antilock brake system (ABS) that “works with your regular brake system by automatically pumping them,” says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. So unless you’re driving an antique car around in the snow, keep your foot on the brake. Focus on where you want the car to go and steer in that direction.
Myth: Tornadoes never happen in the winter
Fact: Bettes says that people often believe “tornadoes [happen] in the spring, hurricanes [happen] in the summer, and snowstorms in the winter,” and at no other time. But tornadoes actually occur every winter! In February 2008 when people were trying to vote on Super Tuesday, 80+ tornadoes ravaged five Southern states. And there's even “a climatological uptick,” if you will, that happens in November.
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