Monday, December 29, 2014

For Our Friends In England (and Las Vegas): "The Benefits of Being Cold"

 After seeing this last week:
Observed Daily Arctic Oscillation Index.
That's the graph of the Arctic Oscillation at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center. 
Negative means somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere is about to get a blast of cold.

I chickened out on the idea of doing a predictive post, although we've done them before,* because I didn't know where it would go.
Seeing this morning's BBC headline:
Cold weather: Record 2014 freeze for England, Wales and Northern Ireland
I figured it out. A bit late.

Here's a bit of consolation from The Atlantic:

Year-round warmth is a modern luxury, and one that could be affecting body weight and health.
When you first put on the ice vest, you will feel cold. Not intolerably cold, but cold enough to make you think, What am I doing with my life? Or, at least, as numbness spreads across your shoulders and down your back, There must be better ways to lose weight. And there are. But as an adjunct to those better ways, the vest carries some unlikely promise.

The sturdy Han Solo–style garment is loaded with ice packs, and it’s inspired by a theory gathering momentum among scientists: namely, that environmental thermodynamics can be harnessed in pursuit of weight loss. The basic idea is that because your body uses energy to maintain a normal body temperature, exposure to cold expends calories. The vest’s inventor, Wayne B. Hayes, an associate professor at the University of California at Irvine, claims that wearing it for an hour burns up to 250 calories, though his data are very rough. A little more than a year ago, he began selling the vest, which he calls the Cold Shoulder, out of his Pasadena apartment. Name notwithstanding, people won’t ignore you when you wear it.

Ken K. Liu, a principal at a hedge fund in Los Angeles, has been wearing the vest under his suit jacket on and off for about a year. He told me that some people’s first reaction to the unwieldy getup is “What the hell are you doing?” As soon as Liu explains the concept, though, many of them say it sounds like a good idea. Others still think it’s “stupid”—as did my colleagues, when I wore one—but Liu has not been deterred. Each morning while his coffee is brewing, he takes his vest out of the freezer and dons it without shame. Liu was never “fat,” by his estimation, but he says he did carry a few extra pounds that he had trouble dropping, despite exercise and attention to diet. The Cold Shoulder closed that gap.

Hayes’s ice vest was inspired by the work of Ray Cronise, a former materials scientist at NASA who now devotes himself to researching the benefits of cold exposure. During the swimmer Michael Phelps’s 2008 Olympic gold-medal streak, Cronise heard the widely circulated claim that Phelps was eating 12,000 calories a day. Having been fastidiously trying to lose weight, he was incredulous. Phelps’s intake was more than five times what the average American eats daily, and many thousands of calories more than what most elite athletes in training need. Running a marathon burns only about 2,500 calories. Phelps would have to be aggressively swimming during every waking hour to keep from gaining weight. But then Cronise—who knows enough about heat transfer to have been employed keeping astronauts alive in the sub-zero depths of space—figured it out: Phelps must be burning extra calories simply by being immersed in cool water.

Fascinated, Cronise began a regimen of cold showers and shirtless walks in winter, and he lost 26.7 pounds in six weeks. He began measuring his metabolism during and after cold exposure, and found that his body was burning a tremendous amount of energy. Rather than storing energy as fat, his body was using it to sustain his core temperature. Cronise’s preliminary experiments led him to put together what is now a pretty high-tech lab in his Huntsville, Alabama, home, where he conducts miniature scientific studies, mostly on himself. All of this attracted publicity, naturally. Timothy Ferriss hyped Cronise’s unorthodox weight-loss success in the 2010 best seller The 4-Hour Body. That same year, Cronise gave a popular TEDMED Talk. Wired ran a feature story describing his home laboratory, titled “The Shiver System.” Through it all, Cronise endured not just the obvious physical discomfort of his endeavors, but the discomfort of personal and public criticism. Some detractors raised concerns about regularly exposing one’s skin to cold (Cronise shared these worries); others accused him of diverting people away from solid principles of weight management and toward dubious shortcuts....MORE
Before The Atlantic changed it, the title to this piece was "".
* A couple years ago we did the AO thing:
Jan. 9, 2012
Dear Europe: Arctic Oscillation About to Go Negative, Try to Stay Warm
Jan. 30, 2012
Brrrr: Arctic Oscillation Goes Deeply Negative, Here Comes Winter
Which resulted in:
Feb. 14
Death toll rises to 600 in European cold snap

A total 824 deaths from freezing in February 2012
AonBenfield 11 page PDF
Serious business.
Here's the alert the National Weather Service sent out yesterday. It has since expired but had me trying to figure out how to make a couple bucks off the news. Via the WaPo's Capitol Weather Gang: