Resource Type
Completion Time
About 1 period
High school and Up
Jacquelyn Hams
National Weather Service Windchill website (see Resources section for address)
Graph paper
Computer and Excel program (optional)
General Physical Science
General Earth Science
Earth System, Structure, and Processes
Snow and Ice Science
Atmospheric Science


The Dry Valleys region in Antarctica is known as the coldest, windiest, driest place on Earth. Beacon Valley is famous for its katabatic winds which can routinely knock fit adults and PolarTREC teachers to the ground. This lesson was created by PolarTREC teacher Jacquelyn Hams who experienced the cold and the full force of the winds in 2008. The weather data was acquired from an anemometer (an instrument that measures wind speed) in Beacon Valley, Antarctica and provided courtesy of Sean MacKay of Boston University.


At the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Define and calculate the wind chill factor

  • Identify a katabatic wind and discuss how it influences temperature.

  • Construct a graph by hand or by using Excel software (optional).


Teachers: Teachers should complete a general meteorology lecture that includes content on wind chill and katabatic winds.

Teachers and students: Read the British Antarctic Survey school handout "Antarctic Climate", Resource C2 – Factors Influencing Antarctic Climate (attached).

Read the PolarTREC 2008 Ancient Buried Ice in Antarctica journal - 19 November 2008 A Mighty Wind. (


  1. Open the National Weather Service Windchill Website

  2. Scroll to the bottom of the site to the "Windchill Calculator"

  3. Enter the temperature in degrees Celsius and wind speed in mph provided for the first date (Nov. 17) on the Beacon Valley Weather Data Assignment and select "Calculate Wind Chill".

  4. Enter the Wind chill temperature in degrees Celsius on the Beacon Valley Weather Data Chart. The first value is completed on the assignment as an example.

Option: Calculate wind chill mathematically using the conversion formulas provided below.

Conversion Formulas: Formula for wind chill temperature: Wind Chill (ºF) = 35.74 + 0.6215T - 35.75(V0.16) + 0.4275T (V0.16) T=Air Temperature in Fahrenheit V=wind speed in mph

Formula for converting temperatures from Fahrenheit to Celsius: Tf = (9/5)Tc+32 Tc = (5/9)(Tf-32)

  1. Repeat Step 3 entering the Beacon Valley temperature and wind data into the computer calculator for each of the dates until the chart is completed.

  2. Have the students complete a graph of temperature in degrees Celsius vs. wind chill temperature in degrees Celsius. Option: Depending on grade level, students can practice computer skills by using Excel to complete the graphing portion of this lesson. An Excel data table is provided in the attachments.

Suggested questions: (teachers may edit or change) 1. What is the wind chill factor and how it is calculated? 2. What was the average temperature decrease due to the wind chill factor in Beacon Valley? 3. What are katabatic winds? 4. What effect did the katabatic winds have on the temperature in Beacon Valley?


There are local winds that affect temperatures in different parts of the country/world. How do the local winds in your area affect the temperature? How fast are the winds compared to katabatic winds? Here are some examples of local winds to use for comparison.

  • Southern California teachers may use the "Santa Ana Winds" for comparison, which blow from the desert at exceptional speeds.

  • For coastal communities, temperatures may vary with onshore vs. offshore winds. Is there a change with the seasons?


National Weather Service Windchill website

"Antarctic Climate" Resource C2 – Factors Influencing Antarctic Climate, British Antarctic Survey.


The completed assignment will be assessed using the attached grading rubric.


Lesson created by Jacquelyn Hams with data provided courtesy of Sean MacKay of Boston University. Contact Jacquelyn Hams at Los Angeles Valley College, hamsje [at]


9-12 Content Standard A: Science As Inquiry: Content Standard D: Earth ad Space Science: Content Standard F: Science In Personal and Social Perspectives: Content Standard E: Science and Technology: Content Standard G: History and Nature of Science: a. Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry b. Understandings about scientific inquiry a. Energy in the earth system b. Geochemical cycles c. Origin and evolution of the earth system d. Origin and evolution of the universe a. Abilities of technological design b. Understandings about science and technology a. Personal and community health b. Population growth c. Natural resources d. Environmental quality e. Natural and human-induced hazards f. Science and technology in local, national, and global challenges a. Science as a human endeavor b. Nature of scientific knowledge c. Historical perspectives

Standards Other

California Grades 9-12 Earth Science Content Standards

Investigation and Experimentation ESIE1. Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept and addressing the content in the other three reporting clusters, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations. Students will:

ESIE1d. Formulate explanations by using logic and evidence.

Energy in the Earth System ES4. Energy enters the Earth system primarily as solar radiation and eventually escapes as heat.

ES5. Heating of Earth’s surface and atmosphere by the sun drives convection within the atmosphere and oceans, producing winds and ocean currents.

ES6. Climate is the long term average of a region’s weather and depends on many factors.

Attachment Size
Download Lesson (PDF - 846.7 KB)846.66 KB 846.66 KB
Beacon Valley Weather Data (XLS - 26.5 KB)26.5 KB 26.5 KB

This program is supported by the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed by this program are those of the PIs and coordinating team, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.