Finally after what feels like, and could have been all day, the pilot announces your final approach to the island of Roatan. A quick peek out the window leaves no doubt that there is a big change of scenery from the takeoff view of Houston. Clear blue waters show off coral reef beneath, bordered with white sand shores above, and minutes later you touch down at Roatan International Airport. A quick taxi to the lot outside of the terminal, the plane stops, the engines power down, the fans stop, and there is something different about the air.
There are no elevated walkways to the terminal here, they roll some stairs up to the plane's side, and you step out into the fresh air, and it is hot and thick. Along with the new smells of a different land, comes a heaviness and dampness to the air that is a sharp contrast to the dry air at altitude in the jet. It hits you like a physical barrier, although a warm and soft one. This is tropical humidity.
Humidity is the amount of water vapor that is in the air, and although it sounds simple this not apparently the case. Humidity comes in three versions; Relative, Absolute, and Specific, all of which have their own way of looking at moisture in the air. Internet searches on this subject just give me a headache trying to understand the differences.
Forget the science and let’s talk about life in a damp place.
Salt, the only mineral we regularly consume has a weird, and annoying relationship with humidity. Trying to get a little more salt outta the shaker on your fries in the tropics, can leave you disappointed. Salt is like people, it tends to want to change the environment to suit itself, rather than just get along, and it very much wants to see the surrounding atmosphere at 75% humidity (please! Let’s not get into what kind). If salt finds itself in an atmosphere that has greater than 75% humidity it sucks moisture out of the air in an attempt to lower it. But salt is small, and the atmosphere is big, so salt meets its demise in the attempt and becomes salty water. Leave some grains of salt on the table in high humidity and you return to wonder where the rain has come from. However there is life after death, and with the humidity lowering below 75%, ever-generous salt gets into gear and gives its moisture back to the atmosphere resuming its granular existence.
Humidity has effects on most everything. Leather, that most durable of mammalian exo-coverings is even a victim. Kicking off your shoes into the corner when you get to the island is normal; you don’t need ‘em. But if it has been a few weeks in the rainy season before you have to formal again, you may not recognize them as they will look like green/gray suede, all fuzzy with mold.
If you are fortunate and get to spend enough time on the island to acclimate, the increased feeling of added heat from high humidity seems to lessen as you become accustomed to it. 83° and 70% humidity becomes the comfortable norm. With the moisture, the unheard of low temperature of 70° becomes quite chilly.
I come from Washington State, the western portion where it is never described as arid. In fact the area of the town of Forks, Washington has the highest humidity in the United States. Well, there are rainforests and such…. Recently I was visiting home after living and acclimating in the tropics for eight years. I was amazed to find that the dryness was quite uncomfortable. Parched throat, dry nose and constant sneezing plagued me for the first week or so until I became a bit used to it. What’s up with that? I am in the wettest part of the US, and I’m parched.
Turns out that humidity in its three headed form has a cousin, Dew Point, described loosely as a measurement of how you feel, or how the moisture feels on your skin.
Notice the difference in the humidity of the two places in the graphs above.
Now check out the Dewpoint of the two places and the comfort levels!
OK, to recap; everybody knows that high humidity is uncomfortable, yet the place with the highest humidity shown is the most comfortable.........then you take the Dew Points which tell at what temperature fog forms and this gives you an idea of............
Having written this, and read it many times, I want to point out that there is a space below to comment. Please feel free to offer enlightenment, and explanations.
I am still so confused.
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