Study asks Britons, 'What does winter feel like?'

Thursday 22nd Dec 2011 by theWeather Club

Much to the dismay (to some at least) of those who revel in Britain's North South divide, it seems that the stereotype of the cold-hardy northerner and the southern-softy may be exposed as a myth. The potentially controversial news comes from early results of a survey carried out by the Met Office and the Open Air Laboratories (OPAL). The research which aims to look at how people perceive and then respond to temperature - asking whether and why 5 °C might feel different depending on where you live.

The survey is set to continue throughout the winter gathering information on how the colder months affect our behaviour, and early data from the project suggest some surprising results. Dr Mark McCarthy, Climate Scientist at the Met Office said: "This research questions our stereotypes about how we feel temperatures. It has long been known that people can acclimatise to their environment, so we might expect people in the cooler north to feel the cold less than people in the south. Initial results suggest this might not be the case, however, and we all feel temperatures in the same way... What is really interesting is that these early results suggest it may be more appropriate to say people in the north and in rural areas are more pragmatic - as they're more likely to reach for a coat when it gets colder than city-dwellers and those in the south."

There is already evidence to suggest towns and cities can generate their own microclimates which affect local temperature, wind, clouds, and even rain. This research aims to see if that affects how people in cities respond to the weather. Dr McCarthy added: "We are continuing the OPAL thermal comfort survey through the winter. Anyone can take part and we are encouraging as many people as possible to get involved so we have some comprehensive results to carry out our research."

So why not get in contact and get involved. The more comprehensive the survey the more useful the end results will be. And they may be far from frivolous. A study focusing on how we feel about the temperature around us may seem a bit of fun at first glance. But in a world in which those temperatures are changing at an ever increasing rate, knowing just how the population may react to future changes might just help us to be a bit better prepared when they arrive.