Record breaking winds swept across a large part of the country last week, sidelining trucks in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, and beyond. Now that the breeze has settled, some have posed the question: is cold wind more dangerous for a truck driver than warm wind?

The short answer? Yes. 

WQAD 8 News explains the reason like this: 

One of the dirty little secrets in meteorology deals with air density. It’s easy to see why some would assume that warmer air would be denser, especially here in the Midwest as oftentimes that warmth is also accompanied by added moisture. You’d think all that added water vapor would indeed make the air more dense, right? 

Surprisingly, wrong! Increasing the water vapor in a mass of air actually makes it lighter. Remember what water is made up of, hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen, being the first element on the periodic table of elements, is the lightest element of them all. If you have more water (H20) then you squeeze out more of the heavier air molecules, making the air mass less dense. 

In summary, cold air is denser because molecules are moving slowly and more tightly packed together. They occupy more space. Warmer air, however, features molecules that are farther apart from each other, moving much more slowly and occupying less space. 

With this new knowledge, it’s easy to see why a strong cold wind would have more push on a truck, especially a semi-truck. You’ve got far more air molecules running into the truck itself compared to if that wind was a warmer wind. 

Basically, the drier and colder the air, the more molecules the wind contains. The more molecules the wind contains, the more molecules there are pushing against a semi truck – meaning cold air is more dangerous to a semi truck than warm air. 

Regardless of the temperature, please be safe out there, drivers. 

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