Montgomery County

Cold is relative in state, town of Florida

Temperatures in the 30s Thursday and Friday in the state of Florida made for front-page news and shi
Welcome to the Town of Florida on Florida Road  Friday, February 20, 2015.
Welcome to the Town of Florida on Florida Road Friday, February 20, 2015.

Temperatures in the 30s Thursday and Friday in the state of Florida made for front-page news and shivering residents.

But temperatures in the 30s Sunday in the Montgomery County town of Florida may make residents there want to dance around outside in shorts and T-shirts.

The 30s! Near 40 as you head toward Poughkeepsie! OK, so it will come a day after Saturday, when another 3 to 6 inches of snow is expected. But 30s? Break out the T-shirts and shorts and …

“I would not do that. It’s still winter,” Luigi Meccariello, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany, said Friday.

The relatively warm temperatures — the accent on “relatively” — will feel a lot warmer. How can the same temperature feel different? It comes down to geography, perspective and psychophysics.

Temperatures in the high 30s in the state of Florida, as reported late this week, are a stark departure for the Sunshine State. And the relative warming coming to the Capital Region is expecting Sunday is nothing more than the norm for the day, but still represents a welcome relief from the brutal cold and wind chill of recent weeks.

“I’m going to feel like I’m in the Bahamas,” said Tammy Burak, a cook at the South 30 Diner in the town of Florida. “I’m going to open all my windows and spring clean. Are you kidding me?”

After actual temperatures below zero and wind chills in the negative double-digits — Friday saw a high of 13, with wind gusts up to 35 mph — Sunday’s reprieve will seem even warmer than the thermometer will indicate. The reason, said Shaina Bernardi, a clinical psychologist at Albany Medical Center, comes down to what’s called psychophysics.

“It’s the study of our sensations, as we take in the stimuli in our environment and the way our brain interprets them,” she said. “Let’s say it’s 50 degrees in the fall; that would seem really cold. When it’s 50 degrees in the spring, we’ll be jumping up and down.

“The ways we interpret our environment is our recent thermal history. We are used to it freezing out. It affects the relationship of how [temperatures] are interpreted.”

Sunday is only a one-day respite from the harshness that has been February in the Northeast, however. The National Weather Service is calling for 3 to 6 inches of snow in the Capital Region starting Saturday afternoon and lingering into Sunday, with the possibility of a wintry mix during the storm. High temperatures will remain below average, in the low to mid-20s.

In other words, been there, done that.

Then comes Sunday, as relatively moderate temperatures move in, “soaring” into the mid-30s for much of the Capital Region. The average high temperature for the Albany area on Feb. 22 is 36 degrees.

Bernardi said in addition to thermal memory, how we view the temperatures can affect how warm or cold we feel.

“Our cognitive expectations can impact the way we feel,” she said. “If we have a thought internally — ‘Wow, it is so much warmer than it was last week’ — it can impact the way we feel.”

So rejoice: Mid-30s beat a minus-30 wind chill. Can it get better than that?


“On Monday, our high temperatures will be around 10 degrees,” Meccariello said. “And that’s cold. Definitely not golfing weather.”

Nothing relative about that.

Categories: News

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