Dry heat vs. humidity: Which is worse?
- Dry heat is hot temperatures that have little moisture in the air (as found in desserts), and humidity is moisture or a degree of water vapor in the air (as found in southern states and most of Central and South America).
- As World Population Review notes, landlocked states (such Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico) containing “very few large bodies of water tend to be the least humid.” Alaska, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Hawaii, Iowa, Michigan, Indiana, Maine, and Vermont are the most humid states in America, with a rate of 70% humidity and higher.
- July 1936 is recorded as being “one of the hottest summers on record across the country, especially across the Plains, Upper Midwest, and Great Lakes regions.” About 5,000 people reportedly died from the high dry temperatures.
- Air conditioning (AC) finds its roots in the discovery of refrigeration with the goal of keeping food from spoiling. Willis Haviland Carrier, known as “the Father of Modern Air Conditioning,” invented the fist electrical air conditioning unit in 1902. In 1930, the White House became air-conditioned. Between 1946 and 1953, room air conditioner unit sales surpassed 1 million.
Our bodies function better when exposed to dry heat rather than high humidity. Bodies sweat when its temperature rises above 98.6. Sweating is how we release heat. Evaporation is the cooling process, allowing one to cool as the sweat evaporates. When humidity is high, sweat does not evaporate. Your body keeps getting warmer, whereas in dry heat, sweat on its own or paired with a breeze can cool one off naturally and relatively quickly.
The Heat Index is a measure of how hot it actually feels when relative humidity is factored in. Using the Heat Index, a temperature of 110 degrees and 10 percent humidity feels like 104 degrees. Yet, a temperature of 90 degrees and 80 percent humidity feels like 113 degrees. That alone should knock dry heat out of the running of being the worse heats of the two.
When battling heat in a dry heat climate, one can easily use evaporative coolers, a cheaper alternative to the standard air conditioners that work by using water to cool down homes. Conversely, ACs 'work harder' in high-humid areas because they must simultaneously remove moisture from the air. Evaporative coolers, while they function well in warm, dry climates, are practically useless anywhere with high humidity. For example, fungus or even toxic mold can be a problem in Florida. Dry climates are not prone to much fungus or harmful growth because moisture evaporates quickly.
Finally, humidity strains automobile air conditioners, making it also work harder to cool down for the same reason regular AC units work harder. Simply put, air conditioners are more efficient in dryer climates, whether for the home, car, or business. And we all require AC when the temperatures get high.
Maha (Dry heat)
If humidity is comparable to a sauna, then dry heat is comparable to an oven. Oven heat is far more relentless, dangerous, and more challenging of the two. Humidity produces lush greenery in the environment through increased rainfall, which helps stabilize the climate. Whereas areas experiencing dry heat see most of their favorite plants and foliage wither and die. Dry heat detrimentally affects the environment, resulting in extreme fluctuations between higher temperatures in the day and lower temperatures at night, negatively impacting both living and nonliving things.
For instance, excessive sweating in humid areas alerts people to move to cooler spaces. Conversely, the sweat of individuals in hot and dry regions evaporates quickly. As a result, they may not notice just how much water their bodies have lost and grow dehydrated. Dehydration is a serious problem that results in a range of symptoms, from dry mouth and lightheadedness escalating to life-threatening respiratory diseases and heat stroke.
Health risks aside, exposure to dry heat can also affect an individuals' appearance. Whereas humidity can do wonders to people's hair and skin, moisture loss from dry heat leads to rough, damaged hair and irritated, cracked skin. It's like standing in a blow dryer when living in a place with dry heat and a breeze.
As for nonliving things, the impact of dry heat can be most visibly seen on properties. Thermal cracks in brick or blockwork are visible due to successive expansion and contraction of building materials. Dry summer weather can also cause subsidence when the ground sinks, pulling a building's foundations along with it. Not only is this costly, but it's also dangerous for everyone inside. So, while humidity may have disadvantages, they pale compared to the dangers of dry heat.