What does the ‘feels like’ temperature actually mean?

With everyone adjusting to the cold as winter strolls back into our lives once again, you might be feeling a little bit confused when it comes to “feels like” temperatures.

Heard Tim Bailey drop the term “feels like” when talking about temperature but have no idea what he’s on about? Like, if that’s what the temperature feels like, then surely that’s the actual temperature, right? Well apparently not.

But the Bureau of Meteorology’s secrets aren’t as surprising as you might be expecting. The explanation actually makes so much sense.

Sydney cold weather
Credit: 702 ABC Sydney/Amanda Hoh

So basically, the number you read on your phone every day is a recording of the air temperature, without taking rain, wind, or humidity into account.

The “feels like” temperature looks at all of these factors too, using a mathematical equation to work out what you’ll be feeling when you’re exposed to the elements.

For any maths whizzes out there, here’s what the equation looks like: AT = Ta + 0.33E — 0.70WS — 4.00 (or “feels like” temperature = air temperature + humidity – wind speed – four).

So basically, when you’re inside without AirCon or heating, you’ll probably be feeling something close to the generic temperature, but as soon as you step outside, that’s when you should be looking at the “feels like” temp.

But the Bureau of Meteorology assumes that you’re dressed appropriately for the weather when they make the calculation, and assume you’re walking in the shade.

If you’re in the sun for most of the day, the “feels like” temperature could increase by up to 8 degrees celsius, which is a huge point of difference that you should take into account when you’re choosing your outfit for the day.

So while it can be a handy guide, the estimated “feels like” temp isn’t gospel. If in doubt, maybe bring an extra jacket just in case.