Science & Tech

Why does winter feel colder in the UK?

London covered in snow as freezing temperatures sweep UK

With temperatures in the UK plummeting into negative figures, many of us are suffering in the freezing cold.

But, while many other countries in the northern hemisphere experience much colder winters every year, why does winter feel so much colder in the UK?

The question was initially posed by TikToker Megan Ruthie who has spent 25 years in Canada but found winter in the UK worse.

She said: “Someone please tell me how I was able to survive Canadian winters for 25 years of my life. It can get negative 30 degrees in Canada and somehow I survived it. In the UK right now it's one-degree celsius and I'm freezing.”

Well, one TikToker has come up with an explanation revealing why winter seems to bite harder in the UK than in Canada, where snow and ice are a formality every winter and temperatures are lower than we’re currently facing.

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TikTok user Circularity Boss explained that “it's all to do with the triple point of water”.

He continued: “The triple point of water is where three states of matter exist at the same time. There's water vapour, ice and water, as liquid.

“Any condensed water vapour can only exist up until about three degrees and at that point, it then turns to steam.

“When it touches your face, and your surface temperature is maybe 20 degrees, that condensation settles on your face but then almost immediately starts to evaporate. That's the same operation as sweats on your body - it cools you down.”

The TikToker then provided a graph that showed how the triple point of water “exists at a point that is lower than the critical point of water”.

The reason it feels colder in the UK just under freezing is that there is still water vapour in the air at that temperature. However, in Canada at minus 30 degrees, the air is dry.

Circularity Boss explained, that there’s “no humidity whatsoever so there's nothing to settle on your face to cool you down”.

They concluded: “I've spent winters in both Canada and the UK, as well as having been skiing in Europe. And in all cases, it's exactly the same. If it's minus 20, there's no moisture in the air so, frankly, you shouldn't feel it, but just don't touch any exposed metal.”

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