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Thursday, July 8


Written by: Brian Neudorff

Ever wonder why television meteorologist and weather broadcasters rarely show the current humidity numbers? During the summer, especially when it is as hot and sticky like it has been we will get a few emails maybe even a phone call or two asking why aren't you showing the humidity? Even though we use the term "Humid" to describe the air outside, humidity is actually a bad indication of just how comfortable or uncomfortable the air really is.

Relative humidity is just that... relative. It is relative to the temperature and moisture content of the air. Here is an example of what I mean.
On a hot, sticky, rather uncomfortable summer day you could have an outside temperature of 92 with a dew point temperature of 68 (which is listed in the uncomfortable zone in the chart above) this would give you a relative humidity of about 46%

On a pleasant, warm yet comfortable spring day you could have an outside temperature of 72 with a dew point temperature of 55 (which is listed as pleasant in the above chart) you would have a relative humidity of about 55%
Although the summer day feels more humid than the spring day its relative humidity is actually lower.

The dew point temperature is the temperature at which the air can no longer hold all of its water vapor, and some of the water vapor must condense into liquid water. At 100% relative humidity, the dew point temperature and the air temperature are the same, and clouds or fog can begin to form. While relative humidity is a relative measure of how humid it is, the dew point temperature is an absolute measure of how much water vapor is in the air (how humid it is). In very warm, humid conditions, the dew point temperature can reach 75 to 77 degrees F, but rarely exceeds 80 degrees.

That means if you hear someone say it is 90 degrees and 90 or 100% humidity they are absolutely wrong. For that to happen you would need a dew point temperature of 86 to 90 degrees. Around here and most of the United States that is nearly impossible.

Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, on the Persian Gulf, recorded a dew point of 95°F on July 8, 2003. In the USA, the highest dew points (above 80°F) occur near the Gulf of Mexico and in parts of the upper Mississippi Valley.


  1. The national weather service out of Buffalo is calling for 1-2 inches of rain tomorrow. Do you guys agree with that? The front does not seem that strong.

  2. Hi Brian,

    Thanks for bringing in that fact about the Sahara Desert holding the record-- and even then-- only 95 degrees!
    Now that makes sense!-

    And that is why the USA seldom get's above 80 degrees!
    We have a friend, born and raised up North, who is living in Louisiana-- close to the Gulf-- He says when it rains, it is so flat-- that the rain just lays on the ground-- and the temperatures are above 95 degrees-- and it is sweltering!-- So the humidity there is probably close to 100%-- right?

    But the Dew Point would still be in the mid 80's? Degrees' F.) Yet it seems so close to 100 percent humidity!
    Mack B.

  3. Typical American - Since when is Saudi Arabia in the Sahara Desert

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  17. I don't know how much confidence I can muster for someone who makes their charts upside down. Dew Point ascends with ascending temperature and relative humidity and so does the perceived discomfort level. So, why would you make your chart descending? :)

  18. Florida, the Gulf Coast, and Deep South Texas are the worst places to live if you hate high dewpoints. Especially Miami and Brownsville!

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