Week of December 11, 2022 – December 17, 2022

Elizabeth Suzedell staff member and Environmental Educator

by Elizabeth Suzedell, Environmental Educator

Last week was rainy and drizzly. We had gloomy days with the ground continuously soaked with water. If there was so much moisture in the environment, why does our skin still feel so dry? The answer is because of the cold.

Air in our atmosphere consists of several gasses, including water vapor. Warm air holds a lot more water vapor than cold air can hold. Warm air is like a super absorbent sponge, while cold air is like a scouring pad; it’s pretty difficult to soak much water into it. With temperatures in the 30s and 40s (°F), the air was holding a lot less moisture than it looked like it was last week.

You have probably heard of the term “dew point” from meteorologists on the news. The dew point is the temperature at which the air must be cooled to in order for water vapor to start to condense out of the air. This condensation is what causes fog, mist, rain, and snow.  When the temperature reaches the dew point, the air is like a fully saturated sponge that cannot hold any more water vapor, so it starts to become a liquid.

In winter, the air is cold- and so are the dew points. Our cold winter air is like the not-so-absorbent scouring pad, so it doesn’t hold much water vapor. If we take this cold air and bring it indoors to warm up, this “scouring pad” will transform into the “super absorbent sponge”. This “sponge” doesn’t have much moisture in it, since all it has is the small amount of water vapor that the “scouring pad” was holding before. Since our new “absorbent sponge” is still relatively dry, it will soak up any excess water quite easily, including from our bodies! Without enough hydration and moisturizing, our skin will quickly become dry. What other changes have you noticed as we approach the first official day of winter?