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Humid or Not so Humid

By: Stacy Berman
By: Stacy Berman

When it's warm outside in summer people tend think it's humid, but with dew points around 60, the air is actually much drier than you think. So why do we assume it's humid all the time in summer?

Summertime in central Virginia is notorious for having high humidity levels, but to say it's downright humid everyday this summer would be incorrect.  For instance... temperatures today (Wednesday) topped out in the mid to even upper 80s, but with dew points only around 60 degrees, it really doesn't feel all that bad out.  However, people still came into the station today saying "Wow, it's humid out there!".  My response to them was "Really?  Our dew point is only 60 and relative humidity is only 45%, it's not humid at all." 

The exact definition of humidity can be difficult to understand, because in society we refer to humidity as relative humidity, which is basically the amount of moisture in the air relative to the amount of moisture the air can hold.  However, as Meteorologists we tend to discuss the dew point values which is another way to to measure the amount of moisture in the air. 

Now the feeling of humidity can differ from person to person, but if we think back to last Friday out at Fridays After Five we can certainly call that humid.  The dew point at 7:15 pm was 74 degrees, which is the highest I've ssen here in a long time, so just standing outside on the downtown mall one and most started sweating pretty quickly.  Also, standing outside early on Saturday morning at the Women's Four Miler Training Program, you could see the morning glow on all the women's faces as the high moisture in the air was felt.  

With that being said, on Monday, dew points spent most of the day in and around the 60 degree mark, so as highs climbed into the 80s our relative humidity levels stayed pretty low, considering it is the summer season.  Yet, we still had people coming into the studio saying "Uggh...It's quite humid out there."  I think they are confused with humid and it just being warm.  A good test of the humidity outside is not only the sweat test, but also, stand outside in the sunshine, then go into the shade, does it feel much cooler and drier in the shade?  In low humidity days, it most likely feels cooler in the shade.  Another way to tell is if you walk outside and it's a little more difficult to breathe, there is probably more moisture in the air, but if you go outside and you notice it is hot because you are in the sunshine, then it's just a warmer day.  It is summer people, it should feel warmer outside.  Temperatures in the 80s are still pretty warm, so yeh, full sunshine will make it feel warmer to you.

Just keep this in mind as you enjoy the summer season.  So humid or not, this summer looks to be quite warm.  Enjoy!

~Stacy

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