Complicated feeling of temperature: Hot is not hot for everyone

A high pressure area will ensure midsummer weather in Germany in the coming days.

Complicated feeling of temperature: Hot is not hot for everyone

A high pressure area will ensure midsummer weather in Germany in the coming days. It's supposed to be really hot. One finds it too warm - the other just right. Why is that?

The thermometer shows 27 degrees in the shade. If that's not a comfortable temperature. Yes - and no, says biometeorologist Andreas Matzarakis. He heads the Center for Medical Meteorological Research of the German Weather Service in Freiburg. "Even in the pleasant 20s temperature range, there are still five to ten percent who find it too warm or too cold."

There are many factors that affect how someone perceives a temperature. The biometeorologist talks about a visit to a school. He asked the students how warm it was outside that morning. "The answers ranged from 12 to 20 degrees - in reality it was 14." Science assumes that there are around 70 components that influence our temperature perception, explains Matzarakis.

State of health and fitness play a role. An example: If someone is not feeling particularly well, a temperature can have a different effect than on someone who is in top shape and in a good mood. The hormonal balance and the proportion of body fat can also affect the perception of heat and cold. For the current temperature assessment, how active someone is or was before is added. And of course what clothes he or she is wearing. There are also weather factors: How strong is the wind? How humid is the air? If you stand in the sun, you get an input of energy.

What happens when the human body heats up above its normal "operating temperature," as Matzarakis calls the standard 100 degrees Fahrenheit or so? The body cannot get rid of excess heat just like that. This is only possible through sweating: Controlled by the nervous system, the sweat glands produce fluid that evaporates on the skin's surface - which cools it down. "However, if you immediately wipe away the sweat with a towel, the evaporation and cooling doesn't work," explains the biometeorologist.

In old age, the metabolism is no longer as active. This is why older people usually only feel heat later than young people, says Matzarakis. At the same time, older people could no longer sweat as much.

And the biometeorologist is not sure whether temperatures that are perceived as individually unpleasant can be found okay at some point through training. You can get used to it, though. This works well for a short time at water temperatures. "You can feel a difference of one or two degrees. But you can endure it." What sounds a bit banal, but can help in principle: if you are prepared for the fact that something is not at the usual (feel-good) temperature.

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