Have you ever gone outside and felt the air weighing on you? Or maybe you’ve noticed that it feels much hotter than it was yesterday, even though it’s the exact same temperature. How about when you get out of a steaming hot shower and dry off with a towel, only for your skin to still feel damp?
Often, these strange sensations are the results of humidity. You may not be able to see it, but it is happening right in front of us in all climates!
What is humidity?
Humidity is simply the concentration of water vapor in the air. It’s not always as obvious as rain, and it’s usually invisible. Think of it as the difference between a hot, dry desert, and a tropical rainforest.
There are different types of humidity and ways to measure how humid the air is. The most common forms are relative humidity and dew point. Relative humidityis theamount of moisture in the air relative to the temperature. This is what you hear about when you watch weather forecasts. It tells us the likeliness of precipitation, dew, or fog.
A measurement that you may be more familiar with is dew point. This is the temperature the air must be for water to condense and evaporate at the same rate. The higher the dew point, the more humid it is outside. This way is much easier for those of us who are not weather professionals to predict how we will feel when we step outside.
How does it work?
We know that through the water cycle, water evaporates and turns into water vapor. As the temperature rises, more water evaporates. At the point of saturation, the amount of water vapor is the highest it can be in the air. Because of all this water vapor, the air feels incredibly thick, stuffy, and humid.
How does humidity affect us?
The higher the relative humidity and dew point outside, the hotter it feels for us humans, because our sweat evaporates slower due to the already omnipresent moisture in the air. This kind of heat can also leave us dehydrated as it messes with our cooling mechanisms, so make sure you hydrate well and keep your body cool on humid days!
Humidity can have several effects indoors as well. Make sure you keep an eye on the humidity levels in your house as high levels can damage electronics and cause mold due to trapped water. Hot and humid climates are also more likely to be prone to hurricanes and flooding.
While humidity does sometimes have negative effects, it is still a necessary part of the water cycle. Without it, we wouldn’t have clouds, rain, or rainbows. And who wants that? Now that you know the science of it all, enjoy the outdoors this summer—but stay healthy and hydrated!