Actual vs. ‘feels-like’ temperatures: a difference that matters

It’s a difference that could impact your health

Actual vs. ‘feels-like’ temperatures: a difference that matters
Sunny and hot (Source: KSLA News 12)

Just about every year, the South goes through periods when it seems like every day meteorologists talk about the actual air temperature versus the heat index or “feels-like” temperature.

Why is that and how are they different?

Sunny and hot
Sunny and hot (Source: KSLA News 12)

When air temperatures are high, it’s hot and you can feel that. But when you add in the humidity (from the Gulf of Mexico’s moisture for us), it feels even hotter because that affects the way your body cools off. This air temperature plus the humidity is what we refer to as the heat index or “feels-like” temperature.

To further explain, let’s quickly talk about evaporation. Evaporation is a cooling process in which, in short terms, water changes from a liquid to a gas. This process is cooling because it removes heat from the surface in which the water is on.

A similar process happens with the human body. The sweat we give off when exercising or just standing outside, is there to cool us off when evaporation removes the heat from our body. Unfortunately, increasing humidity makes this process harder and makes us feel even hotter.

Exercising in the heat
Exercising in the heat (Source: KSLA News 12)

When it feels hotter and your body cannot cool off efficiently, heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke become more likely. Dangerous heat could become life-threatening.

To help you beat the heat:

  • Drink plenty of water,
  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, and,
  • Take breaks in the shade or in an air-conditioned area.
Heat Safety Checklist
Heat Safety Checklist (Source: KSLA News 12)

Here’s how you can keep up with the latest KSLA First Alert weekend forecast:

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