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The Heat Index Explained

The Heat Index Explained

By Ted Keller. CREATED Aug 25, 2014

The heat index is a convenient way of expressing how hot we really feel when humidity is factored in.

By using the familiar temperature scale, the heat index gives us a "feels-like" temperature which is more realistic when gauging how our body will feel due to the combination of heat and humidity.

Humidity matters because our body's natural cooling process involves the evaporation of perspiration from our skin.  High humidity slows the evaporation down which might lead to warmer body temperatures.

The heat index is calculated by knowing the temperature and the relative humidity.  The chart above can then be used to arrive at a heat index value.

When using relative humidity, keep in mind that morning relative humidity is usually a lot higher then during the afternoon.  Using a forecast high temperature and morning humidity will lead to some very large (and wrong) heat index values!  Always use the current temperature and humidity when using the chart.

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The National Weather Service guide to heat safety and illness