Thursday, August 5, 2010

It's Not the Heat; It's the Humidity

That may be a cliché, but it's also true (after all, most clichés start by being truths before moving on the become clichés). In the last part of June and the first half of July, we endured blazing heat, with highs in the 90s. One day it got up to 97, which is the highest temperature we've had since we installed the weather station at our house 5½ years ago.

But the humidity was always low, often in the single digits. We reached another record, an all-time low humidty of 3%. It reached the point where 20% humidity felt muggy!

When the humidity was in the single digits and I went outside, I could practically feel the moisture being sucked from my skin. But somehow it felt invigorating, definitely not energy-sapping the way high humidity feels.

In the last two weeks of July, the temperatures went down, but the humidity went up and it really did feel muggy. Monsoon season had arrived, with brief but heavy rainstorms almost every afternoon. The air stayed humid. The sugar in the sugar bowl developed lumps and a light crust on the surface. We rarely use salt, so I don't know if the salt developed lumps, too.

The muggy days and nights felt so unfamiliar. After spending the first 32 years of my life on the muggy east coast, I've spent the past 15 in the arid west. I don't remember the past few years being so humid during monsoon season.

One weekend night it was 11:30 at night and I was at my hotel job (Night Auditor on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights 11 pm to 7 am). The air hadn't cooled off much, which is very unusual. The warm sticky air reminded me so much of the summer nights back in Falls Church, when it felt as if it would never cool down. For an instant, I was transported back to my parents' house when I was a kid, before they had air conditioning. For a second, I felt like I was really there, out on the front porch, trying to cool off a little. It was weird.

Now that it's August, monsoon season is in full swing. Every afternoon the clouds form (and build) and the breezes blow and we get an occasional rumble of thunder; rain seems imminent, but doesn't always appear. I don't even have to watch the weather portion of the news. It's the same for the next seven days (at least): highs in the 80s, lows in the 50s, chance of afternoon showers.

By the end of August, the temperatures will cool off drastically, especially at night, and it'll start to feel like Fall.


Barbara said...

Funny, last week I was thinking, "It's not the humidity, it's the heat!"

We had temperatures around 100 degrees the week of July 19, and the humidity was moderately high, but not super high. And it was H0T!! And uncomfortable--hard to do anything, hard to think. The worst thing was that the temps didn't go down below the mid to upper 80s during the night, so it was hard to get to sleep. Thank heaven for fans, because the breeze dropped at night too, most nights.

The next week, temperatures were lower--low 90s--but the humidity was higher. That to me was more uncomfortable.

But neither one is great. Today, the temperature is lower, and the humidity is lower, and it feels wonderful.

Marian said...

Nights with temperatures in the 50s sounds heavenly! I think the hardest thing is when nights don't cool down and no matter how early you get up in the morning it is still uncomfortable. I've always enjoyed my visits to the Sacramento area where you can open windows at night after a hot summer day and enjoy those cooling breezes blowing in from the bay.

Anonymous said...

I had no idea that you, who live in the desert, did not have temperatures as high as we have here. It's only gotten to 105 degrees this year, but August is not over yet. Of course it's a dry heat. Kind of like the oven when you're baking something, only without the yummy smells.

The east coast heat with humidity is just too terrible. How funny that you were transported back to that. The mind works in mysterious ways!

Love and hugs,