As the Robert Palmer song states, “some like it hot and some sweat when the heat is on.” This week on Weather Word of the Week is ridges.

Grandfather Mountain Twin Peaks

Somewhat similar to the shape of a mountain ridge, in meteorology, a ridge is an area on the upper-level charts where the height lines bend upward. This is typically due to a surge of warm air moving northward from the warmer tropical regions of the world.

Upper Level Ridges

Example of an Upper Level Ridge in the Atmosphere

In the example above, the ridge is created by the influence of the subtropical high. We see a lot of influence from this semi-permanent high pressure system during the summer here across Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley. You can see the jet stream hangs well to the north allowing the warm air to move northward.

What type of weather can you expect when a ridge is overhead?

Typically, if the ridge is strong enough, you experience sunny, hot, and dry weather. I say IF the ridge is strong enough because, as you know, oftentimes the ridge is weaker, so we see daily pop-up showers and thunderstorms.

The sunny and hot weather is caused by the sinking air from the upper-level high. As the air descends in the atmosphere it warms significantly, and that can lead to the development of the summer heatwaves that we experience here in Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley.

If the ridge is strong enough in the upper levels, it can last for weeks at a time. That is usually when you start to see drought become an issue.

Staying Safe When the Heat is On!

Add the high humidity levels to the sweltering heat, and you have the recipe for extremely uncomfortable and dangerous outdoor conditions. Here are a few tips that we came up with to help keep you and your family cool!

Heat Safety Tips

SLOW DOWN! It is so important to slow your roll when it’s hot and humid outside. This is especially true if you are exercising. Don’t run or bike at your normal pace as it could run your body into the ground (pun intended).

When there are high amounts of water vapor in the atmosphere (high humidity), there is less room per volume of air for oxygen. You kinda need that to breathe. Less oxygen per volume means that your lungs and heart have to work much harder in order to keep up the same intensity level as on less humid days.

The extra stress on your body and organs can be harmful. It is much better to keep it slow, or run earlier in the morning or late in the evening.

Drink PLENTY of water. Keeping your body hydrated is a good way to keep you cool when the heat is on! If you are thirsty you could already be dehydrated.

Dress in light-colored clothing. It will not absorb as much solar radiation, thereby keeping you cooler.

Stay out of the direct sunlight if at all possible since the temperatures soar higher when you are NOT in the shade. If you have to be outside, make sure to take plenty of breaks and to lather on the sunscreen.

If you’re traveling or sight seeing, make sure to seek places with air conditioning and take frequent breaks as well.

Heat Exhaustion or Heat Stroke?

With the summer heat cranking up, it’s also important to recognize the symptoms and know the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke. If you or another person is experiencing any of these symptoms, make sure to take the proper steps to treat these heat-related illnesses.

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