If you’re one of those people who really likes hot temperatures and humid air, you’re a special breed. And Colorado might not be for you. Here in the Centennial State, our climate is relatively dry and many locations along the Front Range are actually considered a “high desert.”

When it comes to things like drought and water conservation, our climate poses serious challenges. But our silver lining comes when the temperatures rise.

The “heat index” describes the temperature you feel on your skin when you step outside. To determine the index, combine the outside temperature with the amount of moisture in the air, which is measured as “relative humidity.” In simple terms: Outside temperature + relative humidity = heat index. It’s a little more complicated than that, but those are the primary factors. (Here, you can calculate heat index on your own.)

Given the amount of skin lotion and lip balm you need to apply in Colorado so you don’t crack, you have probably already determined there is not much moisture in the air. That’s largely because the area lacks a major body of water—like an ocean or a massive lake—and our wind patterns carry less moisture. You’ve probably also noticed Colorado’s significant temperature swings. A desert landscape warms and cools quickly. In the summertime, when the sun is directly above us and we have clear days, temperatures can easily soar into the 90s and 100s. But it might “feel” like it’s only in the 80s or 90s.

Here’s an example: Say, in June, we have a day when the high temperature is 98 degrees. The relative humidity is 18 percent (normal for our area). The actual temperature you feel would be 94 degrees. Now, let’s compare that to New Orleans. Say it has a day when the high temperature is 98 degrees and the relative humidity near the coast that day is 60 percent. In the Big Easy, it will feel like it’s between 110 and 120 degrees.

Our bodies also play a big role in how hot we feel. We cool ourselves by sweating. Here in Colorado, when we sweat, most of the time it evaporates allowing for heat to be released and our body temperature to regulate. In New Orleans, because the air is so moist, sweat doesn’t evaporate easily, which leaves you hot and sticky most of the day.

If your body struggles to regulate its temperature, you may experience heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or, in serious cases, heat stroke. All of these symptoms come as a result of the body not being able to control its temperature. The National Weather Service will alert you when temperatures get to a dangerous level. Heat advisories, excessive heat watches, and excessive heat warnings are issued when temperatures are high enough to negatively affect people who are working outside or part of a temperature-sensitive group.

We’ve already experienced hot weather this year in Colorado. Denver has seen several days in the 90s, and some locations in southeast Colorado have hit 100 degrees. Moreover, heat like this is forecasted for the coming weeks and can be expected many more times through the summer months.

Andy Stein
Andy Stein
Andy Stein is a freelance meteorologist with experience working on both local and national television.