Meteorology 101: The Lowdown on Sunburn

| May 31, 2017 @ 5:20 am

We have a lot of sayings that apply in weather. You’ve probably heard most of them like, it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. Or when thunder roars, go indoors. Or turn around, don’t drown. Many of these are intended to keep us safe.

We’re coming up on the summer season, so there’s another saying that has particular truth for us: It is not the heat you feel but ultraviolet radiation from the sun that causes sunburns that lead to skin cancer.

The warmth of the sun is not what leads to a sunburn.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, sunlight consists of two types of harmful rays that reach the earth – ultraviolet A also known as UVA rays and ultraviolet B or UVB rays. Overexposure to either of these can lead to skin cancer. In addition to causing skin cancer, here’s what each of these rays do:

…UVA rays can prematurely age your skin, causing wrinkles and age spots, and can pass through window glass.

…UVB rays are the primary cause of sunburn and are blocked by window glass.

The American Academy of Dermatology goes on to say that there is no really safe way to tan. This includes radiation from artificial sources, such as tanning beds and sun lamps. Every time you tan, you actually damage your skin. As this damage builds, you speed up the aging of your skin and increase your risk for all types of skin cancer.

Even on cloudy days, ultraviolet radiation can pass through clouds and cause a sunburn while you remain outdoors for long periods.

So if you have plans that call for long spells of time working or playing outdoors, be sure to lather up with your favorite sun tan lotion with a strong SPF rating to reduce your likelihood of getting a sunburn.

Maybe there should be a new saying – Red ain’t cool!

Category: ALL POSTS, Met 101/Weather History

About the Author ()

Brian Peters is one of the television meteorologists at ABC3340 in Birmingham and a retired NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist. He handles the weekend Weather Xtreme Videos and forecast discussion and is the Webmaster for the popular WeatherBrains podcast.