Chapter 16
Dry Heat
The Tales of Texas

1a - The Mysterious Ski Rack
1b - Wheres the Other Half of That Moose
1c - The Waiter Who Didnt Yall
1d - Scorpions, Scorpio
2a - Diet Soda
2b - Riding into the Sunrise
3 - Modest Magazines
4 - Down to Houston
5a - What Does That Sign Say
5b - Just Follow Your Nose
5c - They Call It the Sunbelt
5d - The State Tree
6 - The New House
7a - Billboards
7b - Billboards Again
8 - Stereo Upgrade
9 - Wineries
10 - Unintentionally Left Blank
11 - CBW in TX
12 - Ice House Radio
13 - Goats and Cotton
14 - Dig We Must
15 - Dan Moody
16 - Dry Heat
17 - Dead Animals
18a - Bookstore Culture
18b - On the Open Road
19 - Weather
20 - Sightings in Bertram and Buchanan
21 - Too Many Birds
22 - Road Hazards
23 - Sightings to and from Houston
24 - The Great Wall of Train
25 - In the Heat of the Day
26 - Bite Me
27 - Bid on This Skeleton
28 - Willie
29 - Rural Countryside
30 - SUV SUX!
31 - Kinky on the Texas Monthly Hour
32 - Strange Yellow Sky
33 - Football is a Serious Enterprise in Texas
34 - Remember the Alamoo!
35 - What's That on the Radio
36 - Trip to Houston through the small towns
37 - Shoe Story, an Austin Anecdote
38 - Unintended Fireworks
39 - Flash Flood Warning
40 - Sin City
41 - Live music in Austin, but in theaters not in clubs
42 - Fear of Overpass
43 - The Big Sneezy
44 - New Texas
45 - Front Ended by the French Fry Mobile
46 - Dirt Farm
47a - Heard at the Texas Book Festival 2008
48a - Texas Book Festival 2009
49 - Central Time Sucks
50 - Temple Texas
51 - Christmas in Austin
52 - Pennants in the Wind
53 - The Road Less Traveled
54 - Texas-size Thunderstorm
55 - Cool Van
56 - Your New House Is That-A-Way
57 - C.S.I. Austin
58 - New MTV Game Show
59 - Equine Technology
60 - Look at That Prairie
61 - Get Your Water Here
62 - Corporate Anniversaries
63 - College Sprawl
64 - Hire These Guys
65 - Preparing for Winter
66 - Careful What You Overhear
67 - Bonnie Raitt
68 - Perfume
69 - Questionable Skills
70 - All-American Day
71 - Read Me
72 - Weird Fog
73 - Overpackaged Food
74 - What Town Was That
75 - Texas Book Festival 2010
76 - Bulletproof Roof
77 - The Oldest Photo
78 - Cheesesteaks Part 1
79 - Cheesesteaks Part 2

Yes, But It's a Dry Heat

Oct 2000

"Yes, but it's a dry heat." Standard statement in the Southwest. Contrast this with "It's not the heat; it's the humidity," which one hears in Florida. Yes, it is hot here in the summer, and it is dry. Not dry like Phoenix or Tucson dry, but less uncomfortable than it might be otherwise.

Summer days in Austin range in temperature from 75-80 up to about 105-110. (The high this summer was 112, but mercifully we were out of town for that baking.) In the morning, the low temperature of the day, just before dawn, plunges all the way down to maybe 80 (26-ish, for those of the modern Celsius persuasion). In the summer it is never cloudy, so the sun heats up the landscape continuously through the day. The heat of the day comes at the end of the day, 5 o'clock or so, not at mid-afternoon as we were accustomed to in the North. For four to six weeks, the peak temperature is at least 90, usually 95 to 105 (35 to 41 C).

For the last many decades, when I left work in the evening, at six or seven or eight, the heat of the day was well past and the air and the car were both cool. Well, cool relative to the maximum. This summer was different. Leave work at seven, and the heat slaps you in the face before the door closes behind you. The air is hot but not burning. It feels thick and hard to breathe. There's always a wind, too, dry and sometimes dusty. It dries out the eyes and contact lenses quickly so that sunglasses are essential. If I leave at seven, it's still light, of course, so sunglasses aren't that peculiar. But if I leave at nine or ten, it's dark, but the heat and the wind are still there, so I need light sunglasses or plain-glass glasses (which I had anyway from years of convertibles and sunroofs).

In this heat in the middle of the summer, you don't' sweat. Or you think you don't sweat. Ms T and I have both had days when we had horrible headaches and nearly dropped from dehydration. One afternoon, we were out looking at garden ponds, and it was about 105 that day. We had four bottles of water with us, and drank them all, but I collapsed just the same, and slept for hours. And I *never* nap.

In any case, the heat of the day feels very dry. But the mornings don't. Well, let's see. Relative humidity is what makes air feel wet or dry. Relative to what? Relative to its carrying capacity. The ability of air to hold water as vapor in suspension increases with temperature. The same air that feels humid at eighty degrees feels dry at a hundred. For example, air with 85% relative humidity at 80 degrees F (27 C) has only 53% relative humidity at 90 degrees F (35 C), 45% at 100 F (38 C), and only 40% at 105 (40 C).

So what I think happens is that the amount of (absolute) humidity in the air doesn't change much during the day, and maybe not for days at a time. This is a semi-arid area in the summer. It doesn't rain for weeks on end in July and August. Every day, the temperature goes up and down, the humidity goes down and up. And after weeks of this, you can tell when the summer heat breaks and fall is a-comin'. One night the temperature falls low enough to hit the dew point and the grass is wet in the morning.

You get used to the heat, to the point where, on the first day under 90 you find yourself using words like "reasonable" and even "cool." Both of which are nonsense in any objective view. But you *can* sit on the patio with your beer or lemonade or iced tea and not want to run back to the air conditioning for at least a few minutes. And, by the way, even though you may not sweat visibly, your glass of cold drink does. No matter how low the humidity -- within reason, I mean, we're not talking Death Valley 3% here -- the dew point is still well above your average ice cube's comfort zone.

Copyright (C) 2000, 2001, 2002, Richard Landau. All rights reserved.