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Three Meteorologists on the Exact Temperature of ‘Chilly’

Some say ‘chilly’ has an exact temp. Others view it more poetically. One thing’s for sure, though — you’re gonna want to bring a jacket

I finally caved. Though I’ve resisted the changing weather for weeks now, I went into my closet yesterday and grabbed a jacket before going outside. Like it does every year, my futile attempt to prolong the summer has failed, and I’ve come to accept that, yeah, it’s a little chilly outside. 

Or is it? Perhaps it’s not chilly at all. Maybe it’s “crisp” or even “nippy.” Fuck, it may even be cold outside. Moreover, what the fuck does “chilly” even mean? Is it just some bullshit, relative term, or does it have a more precise, scientific, meteorological meaning

I have no clue whatsoever, but I figured three meteorologists could provide an answer.

What’s the Exact Temperature of ‘Chilly’?

Katie Nickolaou, meteorologist on CBS 14 in Sioux City, Iowa, and creator of the Fandom Forecast: When it comes to chilly, it really depends on the region. Because, if you think about it, in Michigan, “chilly” is going to be different than it is in Florida. It also depends on the season, because when you get to the spring, after a long winter, 60 degrees is blissful, but in the fall, it feels chilly. So, it depends, but I’d say it’s 10 degrees below normal.

Adam Burniston, meteorologist for WKYT in Lexington, Kentucky: I grew up in Northern Indiana and went to school there, then I took my first meteorology job in Louisiana and now I’m in Kentucky. So I’ve been doing this in a few different parts of the country, and there are different definitions of chilly. To me, chilly is when the temperatures are in the upper 40s or lower 50s. If I have to give it an exact number, I’d say it’s 48 degrees.

Simon Gear, South African weatherman and climatologist: Chilly, for me, is the first time in autumn that you need a jersey [jacket]. No one who is freezing to death says, “Ooh, I’m chilly.” It’s just when you wish you had a jersey or when you go back to your car for a top. 

What About ‘Nippy’?

Nickolaou: That’s when you really start to get those little bites of cold in your fingers and toes. The hierarchy is crisp, chilly, nippy, cold.

Burniston: Nippy is just a little lower than chilly. I’d say that’s 38 degrees.

Gear: Nippy is only ever in the morning. You never ever say it’s nippy in the evening. The reason it’s nippy is because you know it’s going to be warmer later. You’re never appropriately dressed for nippy. You’re in shorts and a T-shirt and it feels nippy, but in an hour and a half, you’ll be fine.

How About ‘Crisp’?

Nickolaou: “Crisp” is refreshing, like biting into a fresh apple. You walk outside and there’s just enough of a breeze to raise the hairs on your arms. It feels just nice.

Burniston: That’s still in the 40s — I’d put it around 44 degrees.

Gear: In South Africa, “crisp” describes our entire winter. It’s when there are clear blue skies and the temperature is about 15 degrees [59 degrees Fahrenheit] in the shade.

How Should Someone Dress for Chilly Weather?

Nickolaou: To appropriately dress for chilly weather, you want to dress in layers — you grab a sweatshirt and maybe switch over to jeans. I usually use chilly to describe mornings, which means it’s going to warm up a little bit. 

Burniston: I could still go with shorts in chilly weather, with maybe long sleeves on top and a quarter zip. My most comfortable outfit on a chilly day though would be some joggers and a T-shirt.

Gear: Again, chilly is when you’ve left your coat in the car, so you’re always underdressed for chilly weather. 

How Do You Like Your Chili?

Gear: There is no tradition of Mexican food in South Africa, so the only chili I’ve ever had is chili con carne, which is just beef and baked beans and maybe some peppers. I’ve always been curious about American chili though, and when I eventually make it over there, I look forward to being served some.

Nickolaou: I like my chili on the warm side but not quite scalding. Add a couple of crumbled crackers and it’s perfect. No spice though — I can’t handle spice.

Burniston: I’m very basic with my chili — just ground meat, red beans, chili beans and some simple seasoning with a chili packet. Add some cheese and sour cream and crackers, and it’s perfect.