High humidity makes people feel hotter than they would on a drier day. That’s because the perspiration that occurs to cool us down cannot evaporate as readily in moist, saturated air. To better describe how hot it feels in such circumstances, Canadian meteorologists developed the humidex parameter that combines temperature and humidity in order to reflect the perceived temperature.
Heat and Humidity Safety
It is important to stay safe during such extreme temperatures. Avoid working or exercising intensely if it is very hot or humid outside, and head for cooler conditions if your body becomes overheated. If working outdoors is an absolute necessity, drink plenty of liquids and take frequent rest breaks. Be sure to maintain salt levels in your body and avoid high-protein foods. Also ensure that pets are protected from the heat and have plenty of water to drink. Watch for signs of serious medical conditions, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Relative humidity is the amount of moisture that the air contains compared to how much it could hold at a given temperature. A figure of 100 per cent relative humidity would mean that the air has become saturated. At this point mist, fog, dew and precipitation are likely.
Relative humidity is normally at its maximum when the temperature is at its lowest point of the day, usually at dawn. Even though the absolute humidity may remain the same throughout the day, the changing temperature causes the ratio to fluctuate. The humidex is a Canadian innovation, that was first used in 1965. It describes how hot, humid weather feels to the average person. The humidex combines the temperature and humidity into one number to reflect the perceived temperature. Because it takes into account the two most important factors that affect summer comfort, it can be a better measure of how stifling the air feels than either temperature or humidity alone. The humidex is widely used in Canada. However, extremely high readings are rare except in the southern regions of Ontario, Manitoba and Quebec. Generally, the humidex decreases as latitude increases. Of all Canadian cities, Windsor, Ontario has had the highest recorded humidex measurement: 52.1 on June 20, 1953. The hot, humid air masses which cause such uncomfortable weather usually originate in the Gulf of Mexico or the Caribbean.
Degree of comfort
20 – 29 No Discomfort
30 – 39 Some Discomfort
40 – 45 Great discomfort; avoid exertion
46 + Dangerous; possible heat stroke
An extremely high humidex reading can be defined as one that is over 40. If the reading is in the mid to high 30s, then certain types of outdoor exercise should be modified.