The UV index explained

Why you need to know what the UV index will be
Published: Feb. 14, 2022 at 10:46 AM CST|Updated: Feb. 14, 2022 at 3:02 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Most daily weather forecasts include things like temperatures, cloud cover, rain chances, and wind speed. Some forecasts may include auxiliary things like air quality, pollen counts, mugginess, and the UV index.

It’s that last one we want to focus on because it’s an important factor to consider on a daily basis. That’s especially true during the spring and summer here in Alabama. The UV index pretty much tells us how harmful the sun will be on any given day.

The UV index.
The UV index.(WSFA 12 News)

It ranges from 0 on up to 15, but we in Alabama only see values as high as 11. So what do those numbers actually mean? The higher the number the higher your risk of overexposure to UV radiation during the daylight hours.

The higher UV index values mean you are at a greater risk of suffering damage to your skin and eyes from the sun’s harmful radiation. In other words, the time it takes to harm your body and burn gets lower and lower as you move up the UV index scale.

Just because your UV index for a given day is a “5″ does not mean the entire day will be a “5.”

The UV index on a typical spring or summer day.
The UV index on a typical spring or summer day.(WSFA 12 News)

The UV index forecast tells us what the UV index will be at the solar noon hour. That’s when the sun hits its highest point in the sky midway through the day. This is the period during the day that features the highest chance of skin damage from the sun.

For Central Alabama we’re talking 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. most days. During that stretch it’s imperative to take as many precautions as you can to keep you and your family safe when out in that hot Alabama sun.

So what can you do to protect yourself based on the UV index forecast? There are multiple things you can do, including:

  • Apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 prior to going outdoors
  • Wear a hat
  • Wear sunglasses
  • Seek shade when the UV index is at its highest from late in the morning through the middle of the afternoon
  • Cover the body with clothing

You’ll want to do more of those things the higher the UV index is. So pretty much every single day in Alabama from April to August that features sunshine is going to have a UV index in the “very high” or even the “extreme” category.

And just because there are clouds around does not mean you are safe from the sun’s radiation. Unless it’s an entirely cloudy or rainy day you still need to treat each spring and summer day as if you can burn in under 30 minutes.

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