Nicaragua Diary, Day 3
We base the humidity comfort level on the dew point, as it determines whether perspiration will evaporate from the skin, thereby cooling the body. Lower dew points feel drier and higher dew points feel more humid. Unlike temperature, which typically varies significantly between night and day, dew point tends to change more slowly, so while the temperature may drop at night, a muggy day is typically followed by a muggy night.
Managua experiences significant seasonal variation in the perceived humidity.
The muggier period of the year lasts for 9.2 months, from March 22 to December 28, during which time the comfort level ismuggy, oppressive, or miserable at least 73% of the time. The muggiest day of the year is September 23, with muggy conditions100% of the time.
The least muggy day of the year is February 1, with muggy conditions 64% of the time.
First, this is not a whining post. Please don’t hear my tone that way. To describe living in Managua without discussing heat and humidity would be like describing living in Breckenridge, elevation 9,600, without mentioning thinner air. It becomes the constant of your life, your normal, but it’s also the underlying factor that impacts almost everything. There are studies linking climate to a culture’s characteristics, but that is beyond my expertise. I’m just talking about living with humidity.
It rained this morning. That cooled things off and I thought we might have a cooler game of ultimate today. I was wrong. The sun came back out by 8AM and the heat spiked. When I checked the weather report at 1PM, it said 79% humidity, 93 degrees, “feels like 103.” Not a dry heat. If you live in a tropical climate, you get used to heat, you suffer, or you leave.
The Nicaraguans I know are adapted to the heat and the humidity. I believe every Nicaraguan I have known feels cold when it gets below 80 (which it doesn’t that often). Adults don’t wear shorts much, except when playing sports. I consider myself playing sports all the time. I tried for two years to adapt to wearing pants and failed. I wear them only when my social situation absolutely requires it.
My son has also adapted to humidity. He prefers wearing pants to school over shorts. He dislikes hot showers, even when we’re back in the States and they’re available. He and my middle daughter (who is simply cold-blooded) use flannel blankets here. Did I mention it rarely drops below 80 degrees?
Humidity drains energy. For me, it erodes patience. We’ll be home for dinner together, it may have been a perfectly fine day, and I will feel myself growing irritable. My kids haven’t done anything wrong, certainly nothing unusual or unreasonable, but I’m hot and sticky and when you add that to tired and hungry, it can go south quickly. I’ve learned to recognize that and do what I can to cool off.
When people tell me they could never do what we do, sometimes they mean “I could never live someplace that hot and humid.” I understand. Humidity holds heat in the air. Probably the hardest thing about living in Nicaragua for me has been suffering insomnia; I think the hot nights cause it, at least in part.
I talked with friends yesterday who moved back from Matagalpa, a city in the mountains of Nicaragua with a much more temperate climate. They’d been in the States for a month and he said when they got back “There was an inch of mildew covering everything.” Humidity. The first apartment we lived in here had poor ventilation and though we would scrub the floors with fungicide-laced cleaner, by the morning the grout of the tile floor had a strip of mildew again. Every morning.
Our first year here, the heat shocked me. I vividly remember sitting in our second house here, a much cooler, better ventilated, nicer home, at dinner time, so about 6PM. The sun had gone down. We were eating salad. In a few minutes, sweat began to roll down my temples. My arms started to shine. I wasn’t playing ultimate, I wasn’t walking, I wasn’t even eating hot soup–I was eating cold salad. The exertion of lifting the fork to my mouth caused me to sweat profusely.
I’ve adapted since then. Bodies are amazing. I remember when we moved to Breckenridge, CO, and I was freezing all the time. I don’t know if the temperature ever reached 80 degrees in the three years we lived there, but we definitely had 9 months of winter. After a while, I could climb stairs without panting and would take off layers when the temperature got up to 45 or 50. Likewise, though this morning I felt out of shape from our U.S. visit and certainly felt my age, I could also feel my body already readjusting to the humidity.
Now, as I write this, the rain has come back. We are having a genuine thunderstorm (not one of the wild ones, just steady thunder in the background and hard rain with a light breeze). This is precisely why I prefer rainy season.
Nicaragua has rainy season, dry season, and the end of dry season in which the rain doesn’t fall but the heat and humidity creep up and up and up some more. I’m sure I’ll describe each of them in detail. The saving grace of rainy season is that sometime every one to three days, the rain falls and knocks some of the heat out of the air. If we don’t have rain, as in the drought we suffered last year, the heat just keeps climbing to miserable levels. In August so far, the percent of relative humidity has bounced between low 70s and high 80s. The day I flew back, we had 89% humidity, without rain.
Right now, of course, we have 91% humidity because there’s water falling through the air. Even with this, and the temperature plummeting to 81, the Weather Channel still tells me it “feels like 91.” But to me, it doesn’t. Thanks to this breeze, I feel cooled off and can bear this furry cat cuddled up against me. If it keeps on like this, I might even drink a cup of tea. I love hot tea but probably drink fewer than 10 cups a year here, because if you can’t eat salad without sweating…
Post-Script: The water is off again. I think they broke another pipe. Feeling cooled off with this rain helps a lot, though.
If you do check out this link, scroll down to the humidity section and check out the “Humidity Comfort Levels” graph.