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Dry Heat vs. Humid Heat
You've probably all heard the saying about Arizona's heat: "But it's a
DRY heat," which is usually meant to imply that dry heat is better than
humid heat. Phoenix is both hotter and drier than most other places in
the country, and people from more humid places claim that it feels hotter
in higher humidity even when the temperature is lower. Let's take a look
at how that works.
When your body gets hot, it sweats.
The heat from your body is dissipated because it's spent turning the water
on your skin into vapor. As the sweat evaporates from your body, more
sweat takes its place for as long as your body decides that it needs to
cool itself down. The advantage is that your body can regulate its temperature.
The disadvantage being that you lose water and can dehydrate.
So why does it feel hotter in areas of higher humidity? Because when
there is already a high concentration of water in the air, your sweat has
no place to go. In fact, the water in the air actually condenses on your
skin. While you may feel stickier or sweatier in high humid regions, you're
actually sweating less. But because the sweat doesn't evaporate, you appear
to sweat more. This also means that the process of sweating doesn't cool
you down much, and you feel warmer.
There are some safety tips that need to be followed if you're going
to be in dry heat. First off, make sure you drink plenty of liquid. A
person walking around outside on a hot Arizona
summer day can lose about one quart
of water per hour, and more if overly active. Secondly, when you begin
to lose too much water, your body can heat up faster causing you to suffer
from heat exhaustion. Initial symptoms include nausea, dizziness, and
lack of sweat (because you're dehydrated). With continued exposure to
heat, other symptoms include ringing in the ears, headache, and loss of
muscle control. Upon noticing the first symptom, get out of the heat and
replenish the body's water immediately.
The State of Arizona comprises the extreme south-western portion of the United States. It is bounded on the north by Utah, on the east by New Mexico, on the south by Mexico, and on the west by California and Nevada.
While a humid heat
may feel more uncomfortable, it's less likely to cause dehydration.