What is the heat index?

When the summer heat intensifies, all eyes are on the temperature. But often, experts say, it’s the heat index that should attract the ...


When the summer heat intensifies, all eyes are on the temperature. But often, experts say, it’s the heat index that should attract the most concern.

While it is the temperature that is found on the 10 day forecast and electronic signs outside the riverbanks, the heat index is often a better indicator of the intensity of the heat and the dangers it poses. can present for people.

The heat index is a measure of how warm it really is outside, when humidity and other factors are factored in with temperature, according to Kimberly McMahon, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

“The heat index is important – and this is especially true in the northeast – because it includes the amount of humidity or humidity in the air, and this humidity or humidity can make the air temperature even higher, ”Ms. McMahon said.

In addition to using it to provide a more accurate measurement of what it feels like to be outdoors, the National Weather Service relies on the Heat Index to tell people how much heat the human body has. can endure before it becomes dangerous.

Sometimes, if it’s humid enough, it doesn’t have to be that hot outside for the weather to be harmful.

“With the high humidity, it is more difficult to make the human body sweat and then evaporate that sweat,” Ms. McMahon said. “Along with the inability to cool inefficiently, it increases a person’s heat stress. “

For example, on a day when the outside temperature is 92 degrees and the humidity is 70 percent, the heat index is 112 degrees. When the heat index reaches this level, it is dangerous and can cause sunstroke, muscle cramps and heat exhaustion. For those who exercise or stay outside for long enough under these conditions, heat stroke is also a risk.

The National Weather Service uses the heat index values ​​to know when to issue heat advisories, watches and warnings, which urge residents of an area to avoid being outdoors during the hottest periods of the day. daytime.

While other countries also use the heat index to gauge the heat outdoors, an additional measure used in some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, is wet bulb temperature.

The National Meteorological Service refers to “wet globe temperature” as a measure of heat stress under direct sunlight that takes into account temperature, humidity, wind speed, cloud cover and light. angle of the sun.

Weather-related deaths and injuries are often associated with more drastic events like tornadoes and hurricanes, but heat-related illnesses are the leading cause of death related to weather or environmental events, according to the American Public Health Association.

Each year, more than 600 people across the country die from the extreme heat, according to the Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention.

It doesn’t matter if someone lives in an area where they are used to the heat, Ms McMahon said it’s important to pay attention to heat-related watches and warnings when they are in effect.

“Both heats are dangerous, whether it is the heat with high humidity levels or the dry heat they give off in the desert of the southwest,” she said. “People should always be careful and take it seriously because it is the # 1 weather-related killer in the United States.”

The heat index is measured using multiple regression analysis that uses actual temperature and humidity to produce a number more representative of how warm it is outside.

The equation is long (-42.379 + 2.04901523T + 10.14333127R – 0.22475541TR – 6.83783 x 10-3T2 – 5.481717 x 10-2R2 + 1.22874 x 10-3T2R + 8.5282 x 10-4TR2 – 1.99 x 10-6T2R2), and uses R to represent humidity and T to represent temperature.

Because this is a long math problem to solve on the fly, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration uses a simple graphic that everyone can understand.

According to the graph, on a day when temperatures are 106 degrees and humidity is 50 percent, the heat index is 137 degrees.

The heat index values ​​were created assuming shaded conditions with a light wind, so full exposure to the sun can make the temperature even hotter by up to 15 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

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