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View Full Version : How long does it take a dead body to cool to room temperature?


Skald the Rhymer
05-04-2009, 04:02 PM
Assume it's the body of an adult woman in good health who died violently and suddenly; that she is outside when she dies and the body is not moved; and that it's a late summer/early fall day. It's been raining before she dies, so the temperature is, I'd guess, about 65 degrees at most; and though the rain has stopped the sky is still overcast. No wind blowing.

How long would it be before the body is cool to the touch?

spayced
05-04-2009, 04:05 PM
http://lmgtfy.com/?q=how+long+does+it+take+for+a+body+to+cool&l=1

Q.E.D.
05-04-2009, 04:22 PM
http://lmgtfy.com/?q=how+long+does+it+take+for+a+body+to+cool&l=1

Oddly enough, not a single one of those results--not ONE--answers the OP's question. The fact is there is no simple answer. Cooling rate follows a roughly exponential curve, but the exact shape of the cooling curve depends on a huge number of factors, including ambient temperature (which is rarely stable for more than a few hours outdoors), the type of surface the body is on, whether it's partially or wholly immersed in water and the temp of the water if it is, clothing, precipitation, wind speed, body morphology and mass, and even the position (curled up into a ball, prone, spread-eagle, etc.) There used to be a rule-of-thumb which said a body cools about 1.6 degrees F per hour but this is wildly inaccurate for all but the roughest guesstimates and is never used by pathologists to estimate TOD anymore.

So, u = phail.

spayced
05-04-2009, 05:10 PM
Oddly enough, not a single one of those results--not ONE--answers the OP's question. The fact is there is no simple answer. Cooling rate follows a roughly exponential curve, but the exact shape of the cooling curve depends on a huge number of factors, including ambient temperature (which is rarely stable for more than a few hours outdoors), the type of surface the body is on, whether it's partially or wholly immersed in water and the temp of the water if it is, clothing, precipitation, wind speed, body morphology and mass, and even the position (curled up into a ball, prone, spread-eagle, etc.) There used to be a rule-of-thumb which said a body cools about 1.6 degrees F per hour but this is wildly inaccurate for all but the roughest guesstimates and is never used by pathologists to estimate TOD anymore.

So, u = phail.

It does give rough estimates, (which vary by 12 hours) which would be useful when one cannot know exactly how long it would take, like you say. Additionally, you gave a pedantic non-answer which helps even less. Not saying you were wrong, just saying my answer was kind of useful, unlike yours.

Skald the Rhymer
05-04-2009, 05:14 PM
It does give rough estimates, (which vary by 12 hours) which would be useful when one cannot know exactly how long it would take, like you say. Additionally, you gave a pedantic non-answer which helps even less. Not saying you were wrong, just saying my answer was kind of useful.


Though I was vexed at the form your answer gave, it was, along with Q.E.D.'s, helpful. Really I was wondering whether a body that had been dead for no more than an hour yet would be cold.

Malleus, Incus, Stapes!
05-04-2009, 05:17 PM
Why exactly do you need to know? :eek:

Skald the Rhymer
05-04-2009, 05:23 PM
Why exactly do you need to know? :eek:

I just murdered Catherine the Great. I need to know how long I have before I have to take her back to 1761 so her body can be found, as I am having difficulty getting the horse to cooperate in .... well, never mind.

jayjay
05-04-2009, 05:51 PM
"Need answer fast!"?

HorseloverFat
05-04-2009, 05:55 PM
>Really I was wondering whether a body that had been dead for no more than an hour yet would be cold.

Less than an hour? Depends on what you mean by cold. You ever touch a sick person whose body temperature has fallen only a few degrees? They feel very cold to the touch but theyre about 93-95 or so degrees. Ever get in bed with your SO and feel their cold feet? Same thing.

Our sense of temperature is so sharp that even a few degrees feels very cold. A dead body lying on concrete for an hour would feel freezing to you. Doubly so in the winter.

Skald the Rhymer
05-04-2009, 06:01 PM
>Really I was wondering whether a body that had been dead for no more than an hour yet would be cold.

Less than an hour? Depends on what you mean by cold. You ever touch a sick person whose body temperature has fallen only a few degrees? They feel very cold to the touch but theyre about 93-95 or so degrees. Ever get in bed with your SO and feel their cold feet? Same thing.

Our sense of temperature is so sharp that even a few degrees feels very cold. A dead body lying on concrete for an hour would feel freezing to you. Doubly so in the winter.

The combination of my last post and your user name lead me to expect a different, far snarkier answer.

Bryan Ekers
05-04-2009, 06:13 PM
At the very least, I'd expect the dead woman's clothing to play a significant role in how long it takes for the corpse to cool. If it was raining, did she have on a raincoat?

Skald the Rhymer
05-04-2009, 06:17 PM
At the very least, I'd expect the dead woman's clothing to play a significant role in how long it takes for the corpse to cool. If it was raining, did she have on a raincoat?

:: peers over glasses at imaginary corpse of CtG currently being buggered by a shetland pony::

She appears to be wearing some sort of fur cape. I think it's bearskin.

More seriously, I'm writing a story in which someone touches a corpse that's been dead for an hour or so; she'd have been coatless, as she gave her coat to the person currently touching her. I asked the question because I wrote "let go of the cold hand" and then, being me, started worrying.