Should you walk or run through the rain?

Rainy-Day-Kids-VRTIt’s strange, all right. Our region has a cloudy season, but not a rainy season. For half the year our area averages a gloomy two-thirds cloud cover, from November 1 through April. By contrast, our skies are more clear than cloudy right now in the warm months – and right through October. You’d think that this would translate into less precip now, but it doesn’t. Our entire area gets very nearly four inches month after month, whether it’s a cloudy month or one of our clearer summer months. This may be our weirdest climate feature.

But we do have a thunderstorm season: It’s now. The lion’s share of sudden downpours happens during our warmest months, when sunshine is most intense to make thunderclouds build, and when arriving cold fronts have the most juicy moisture to plow into.

So, you’re finishing lunch or dinner at a restaurant and it’s suddenly pouring. Your car is parked out in the lot. Should you walk or run?

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Believe it or not, scientists have debated this for years. If you run, you get there faster, so less rain hits you. But meanwhile you’re slamming more frontwise into the droplets, making them preferentially strike your face, legs and chest. If you’d walked, they’d mostly hit your head and shoulders, which offer less surface. So which strategy results in you being drier?

In the late ’80s, an Italian physicist calculated that running would keep you ten percent drier than walking: hardly worth the effort, especially since you’d be more likely to slip and fall. But in 1995 a British researcher decided that walking is better, because the drenching of your entire front side would negate the slight benefit of getting there faster.

The next year, two North Carolina climatologists put the whole thing to an actual test. Wearing identical clothing and water-measuring equipment, one of them ran 100 meters through a downpour while the other walked. And guess what? The one who walked was 40 percent wetter.

Bottom line: run.

 

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