100°F in Ann Arbor today with 63% humidity. According to the heat index calculator, I am living in what feels like a 133°F tropical rain forest.* (High humidity slows down the evaporation of perspiration that our bodies produce to cool off, thus making high temperatures feel much higher when humidity is added to the equation.)
Within milliseconds of walking outside this afternoon and attempting to breathe the impossibly thick air, I began to feel an incessant biological urge to sprint to the nearest enclosed, humidity-regulated structure I could find. Of course, this would have involved turning around and heading straight back into my apartment building. As this was not an option (due to the fact that I had eager young minds awaiting their weekly dose of instructional musical brilliance), I proceeded to battle my instinct of self-preservation and traverse the steaming parking lot as quickly as I--one who was under the immense pressure of looming suffocation--possibly could.
As I climbed into my car and a rush of endorphins congratulated me on my narrow escape from asphyxiation, I began to wonder what temperature the thermometer is required to reach before people actually do become physically unable to tolerate such heatwaves...
And so, after concluding my duties of musical knowledge bestowal several hours later, I returned home and thought to myself, "well now, what better way to spend a Thursday night than reading about hygrometers, humiture, and thermoregulation!"
Which is what I did.
Below, I quote a couple of interesting facts I learned from the "How Stuff Works" website, which you can find here (yes, yes, please abate your mockery at my choice of sources--I am working on a master's degree, but my MM will stand for Master of Music, not Master of Meteorology).
Humidity can be measured in several ways, but relative humidity is the most common. In order to understand relative humidity, it is helpful to first understand absolute humidity.
is the mass of water vapor divided by the mass of dry air in a volume
of air at a given temperature. The hotter the air is, the more water it can contain.
humidity is the ratio of the current absolute humidity to the highest
possible absolute humidity (which depends on the current air
temperature). A reading of 100 percent relative humidity means that the
air is totally saturated with water vapor and cannot hold any more,
creating the possibility of rain. This doesn't mean that the relative
humidity must be 100 percent in order for it to rain--it must be 100
percent where the clouds are forming, but the relative humidity near the
ground could be much less.
Humans are very sensitive to humidity, as the skin relies on the air to get rid of moisture. The process of sweating
is your body's attempt to keep cool and maintain its current
temperature. If the air is at 100-percent relative humidity, sweat will
not evaporate into the air. As a result, we feel much hotter than the
actual temperature when the relative humidity is high. If the relative
humidity is low, we can feel much cooler than the actual temperature
because our sweat evaporates easily, cooling us off. For example, if
the air temperature is 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius) and
the relative humidity is zero percent, the air temperature feels like 69
degrees Fahrenheit (21 C) to our bodies. If the air temperature is 75
degrees Fahrenheit (24 C) and the relative humidity is 100 percent, we
feel like it's 80 degrees (27 C) out.
People tend to feel most comfortable at a relative humidity of about 45 percent.
Is it weird that I find this stuff fascinating?
...okay, maybe a little.
I might add to the above commentary that high humidity in combination with low temperatures creates a very biting, bone-chilling effect. When combined with wind, this may cause even the fiercest and loyalest of flip-flop wearers to ponder their choice in foot adornment.
But let's not get off topic here.
Eager for another fact to log away? Did you know: pianos are built and designed to remain at 42% relative humidity, with an 8% moisture content in the wood. In a nutshell, treat your piano to the same living conditions you would a dearly beloved child.
Now that I have completely exhausted your interest in humidity, I shall go to bed.
From the mitten, over and out.
It just dawned on me...I live in a mitten. Mittens are designed to retain heat.
No wonder it's so hot.
*I do technically live closer to the equator than I do the North Pole, but
only by a couple hundred miles--we passed the 45th parallel in northern Michigan on our way up to the UP during our most
excellent vacation a couple of weeks ago.