A long time ago, I made a personal promise never to complain too much about the summertime heat in this part of the world.
I generally enjoy the warm summer weather in our region, and thankfully, the days when temperatures soar well into the 90s with the stifling humidity such as we experienced this past week typically are few. On the flip side, I am no fan at all of winter cold, nor the snow, the high heating bills and all the other inconveniences that accompany that season.
In order to afford myself the privilege of complaining liberally about wintertime and its often unpleasant weather, I try to abide the handful of summer's warmest days with as few discouraging words as possible.
True to that pledge, I have been enduring the current heat wave while trying to enjoy myself as much as possible. Regardless of the weather, my favorite way to spend any summer day is fishing for smallmouths on the Juniata River, which I did with a good friend on one of the hottest days last week.
A walk in the woods can actually be pleasant, and just relaxing in the shade of a hemlock tree beside a mountain stream is the best air conditioning I know of.
What bugs me the most about the hot weather right now really has nothing to do with the weather, but rather the folks in the broadcast media who report it.
I think I will scream if I listen to another radio or TV reporter telling me it is going to be 96 degrees tomorrow, but things will "feel" like 110 degrees. Huh?
What these various weather twits are referring to is something called the "heat index." This index uses a rather complex mathematical formula that combines the real air temperature (for temperatures of 80 degrees and warmer) and the relative humidity.
The result is a mythical and largely useless number that is supposed to reflect how hot a given combination of temperature and humidity would feel in drier air. And for all practical purposes, it is a totally ridiculous comparison.
How often have we heard, "It's not the heat; it's the humidity." That is especially true in our part of the world, because we rarely have dry air in the summertime. As air temperatures exceed 80 degrees, the relative humidity is likely to be high as well. And the higher the humidity, the more uncomfortable we tend to feel. That's because perspiration doesn't evaporate readily when the humidity is high, which causes a sticky, unpleasant sensation. But does that situation make it feel like it is 110 degrees as the silly heat index indicated several days last week. I think not.
I've been subjected to actual air temperatures in excess of 110 degrees at least twice I can recall.
In October of 1999, I made a trip to Mexico to fish for trophy largemouth bass in a large, mountain reservoir.
During the three days I was there, the weather was incredibly hot. We hit the water each morning shortly after sunrise and fished until about noon. Then we would head out again in late afternoon and fish until sunset.
On the last day there, we ate lunch on a large open-air patio with a roof over it. The ample shade and a slight breeze made things quite pleasant there, so much so that I could hardly believe my eyes when I looked at a thermometer on the wall that read 100 degrees.
After lunch, I spent an hour or so walking around the lodge taking photographs. The outside temperature was about 110 degrees, but the air was so dry, I don't recall breaking a sweat and actually felt rather comfortable.
Five or six years ago, I went to Las Vegas in mid-July for a fishing tackle trade show. Watching the local news in my hotel room, I learned the weather forecast was for record high temperatures, approaching a staggering 117 degrees.
I decided I would find out just what 117 felt like by walking the half mile or so from my hotel to the convention center that afternoon. It was a remarkable experience.
I walked at a steady, relaxed pace. The sensation of heat was intense, but just as in Mexico, I wasn't sweating and felt relatively comfortable. I made it to the convention center with no problem but also realized that one wouldn't last long under those conditions without water or shelter.
And believe me, a sweaty 90 degrees feels nothing like 110 dry degrees in the desert.