humidity


humidity
/hyooh mid"i tee/ or, often, /yooh-/, n.
1. humid condition; moistness; dampness.
3. an uncomfortably high amount of relative humidity: It's not the heat, it's the humidity that tires me out.
[1350-1400; ME humydite < L (h)umiditas. See HUMID, -ITY]

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Amount of water vapour in the air.

One of the most variable characteristics of the atmosphere, humidity is an important factor in climate and weather: it regulates air temperature by absorbing thermal radiation both from the Sun and the Earth; it is directly proportional to the latent energy available for the generation of storms; and it is the ultimate source of all forms of condensation and precipitation. Humidity varies because the water-holding capacity of air is determined by temperature. When a volume of air at a given temperature holds the maximum amount of water vapour possible, the air is said to be saturated. Relative humidity is the water-vapour content of the air relative to its content at saturation. Saturated air has a relative humidity of 100%; near the Earth the relative humidity rarely falls below 30%.

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      the amount of water vapour in the air. It is the most variable characteristic of the atmosphere and constitutes a major factor in climate and weather. A brief treatment of humidity follows. For full treatment, see climate: Atmospheric humidity and precipitation (climate).

      Atmospheric water vapour is an important factor in weather for several reasons. It regulates air temperature by absorbing thermal radiation both from the Sun and the Earth. Moreover, the higher the vapour content of the atmosphere, the more latent energy is available for the generation of storms. In addition, water vapour is the ultimate source of all forms of condensation and precipitation.

      Water vapour enters the atmosphere primarily by the evaporation of water from the Earth's surface, both land and sea. The water-vapour content of the atmosphere varies from place to place and from time to time because the humidity capacity of air is determined by temperature. At 30° C (86° F), for example, a volume of air can contain up to 4 percent water vapour. At -40° C (-40° F), however, it can hold no more than 0.2 percent.

      When a volume of air at a given temperature holds the maximum amount of water vapour, the air is said to be saturated. relative humidity is the water-vapour content of the air relative to its content at saturation. Saturated air, for example, has a relative humidity of 100 percent, and near the Earth the relative humidity very rarely falls below 30 percent. Unsaturated air can become saturated in three ways—by evaporation of water into the air; by the mixing of two masses of air of different temperatures, both initially unsaturated but saturated as a mixture; or, most commonly, by cooling the air, which reduces its capacity to hold moisture as water vapour sometimes to the point that the water vapour it holds is sufficient for saturation. This atmospheric cooling can be brought about in a number of ways, as by the arrival of a cooler air mass or by the movement of an air mass up a mountain side. If the cooling continues beyond the point of saturation, and provided there are sufficient condensation nuclei in the air around which tiny cloud or fog droplets can form, the excess moisture will condense out of the air as cloud or fog droplets or various forms of precipitation at the Earth's surface. The condensation process, however, releases latent heat, which may help the cloud to grow upward, by warming the humid air, causing it to rise, or, conversely, may evaporate the clouds as the warmed air falls below the saturation point and is able to absorb more water vapour. When clouds form, however, they block out some solar radiation and thereby have a net effect of cooling the air.

      Care must be taken to distinguish between the relative humidity of the air and its moisture content or density, known as absolute humidity. The air masses above the tropical deserts such as the Sahara and Mexican deserts contain vast quantities of moisture as invisible water vapour. Because of the high temperatures, however, relative humidities are very low. Conversely, air in very high latitudes, because of low temperatures, is frequently saturated even though the absolute amount of moisture in the air is low.

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Universalium. 2010.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Humidity — is the amount of water vapor in the air. In daily language the term humidity is normally taken to mean relative humidity. Relative humidity is defined as the ratio of the partial pressure of water vapor in a parcel of air to the saturated vapor… …   Wikipedia

  • Humidity — Hu*mid i*ty, n. [Cf. F. humidit[ e].] 1. Moisture; dampness; a moderate degree of wetness, which is perceptible to the eye or touch; used especially of the atmosphere, or of anything which has absorbed moisture from the atmosphere, as clothing.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • humidity — [hyo͞o mid′ə tē, yo͞omid′ə tē] n. pl. humidities [ME humydite < OFr humidite < LL humiditas < L humidus: see HUMID] 1. moistness; dampness 2. the amount or degree of moisture in the air: see ABSOLUTE HUMIDITY, RELATIVE HUMIDITY …   English World dictionary

  • humidity — late 14c., from O.Fr. humidité, from L. humiditatem (nom. humiditas), from humidus (see HUMID (Cf. humid)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • humidity — [n] very damp weather clamminess, dampness, dankness, dew, dewiness, evaporation, fogginess, heaviness, humectation, humidness, moistness, moisture, mugginess, oppressiveness, sogginess, steam, steaminess, stickiness, sultriness, sweatiness,… …   New thesaurus

  • humidity — noun ADJECTIVE ▪ high, low ▪ ambient (technical), relative ▪ in dry weather, when the ambient humidity is low … OF HUMIDITY ▪ …   Collocations dictionary

  • humidity — [[t]hjuːmɪ̱dɪti[/t]] 1) N UNCOUNT You say there is humidity when the air feels very heavy and damp. The heat and humidity were insufferable. 2) N UNCOUNT Humidity is the amount of water in the air. The humidity is relatively low …   English dictionary

  • humidity —   the water vapour content of the atmosphere. Two main measures are absolute humidity and relative humidity. Humidity is controlled by air temperature (the higher the temperature the more water vapour can be held) and water availability for… …   Geography glossary

  • humidity — Moisture or dampness, as of the air. [L. humiditas, dampness] absolute h. the mass of water vapor actually present per unit volume of gas or air. relative h. the actual amount of water vapor present in the air or in a gas, divided by the amount… …   Medical dictionary

  • humidity — hu|mid|i|ty [hju:ˈmıdıti] n [U] 1.) the amount of water contained in the air ▪ The room is kept at 72 degrees and 50% relative humidity. 2.) when the air is very warm and wet ▪ a day of hot sunshine and humidity …   Dictionary of contemporary English


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