Summer Storms: Run or Walk?

Man Running in Rain


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You look up to enjoy a starry summer sky but instead see a flash. For most of us, this is thunderstorm season.  You finish dinner at a restaurant and it's suddenly pouring.  You gaze at your car parked not so far away.  Should you walk or run?

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 chest and legs.  If you'd walked, they'd mostly hit your head and shoulders, which offer less surface.

Is this logic correct? Which strategy results in you being dryer?

In the late eighties, an Italian physicist calculated that running through a rain storm would keep you 10% drier than walking.  Barely any difference. Hardly worth the effort, especially since you'd be more likely to slip and fall.  Then 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 issue to an actual test.  They each wore identical clothing and water measuring equipment.  One of them ran 100 meters through a downpour while the other simultaneously walked.  Result?  The one who walked was 40% wetter.

Bottom line: run to the car.

But you already instinctively knew that, didn't you?

About This Blog

Welcome to “This Week’s Amazing Sky,” the Almanac’s blog on stargazing and astronomy. Wondering which bright objects you’re seeing in the night sky? Want to learn about a breathtaking sight coming up? Bob Berman, longtime and famous astronomer for The Old Farmer’s Almanac, will help bring alive the wonders of our universe. From the beautiful stars and planets to magical auroras and eclipses, we’ll cover everything under the Sun (and Moon)!

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i think this is a good paper

i think this is a good paper about this problem

Run or walk in the rain? (Orthogonal projected area of ellipsoid) figshare

Forget speed; instead measure

Forget speed; instead measure time. Slower you walk, longer the exposure, wetter you get. Runner will be drier.

Wet is wet no matter the

Wet is wet no matter the coverage.

Walking with a big umbrella

Walking with a big umbrella is always best,
Be prepared! Boy Scout's rule.

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