Climate in Austin vs. DC
June 26, 2010 9:48 PM   Subscribe

Austin, TX - hot and humid or just hot?

My husband and I are talking about moving from Washington, DC to Austin, TX. He is convinced that the heat in Austin is a dry heat so it will not be as stifling and uncomfortable as DC. I thought that the difference between hot and humid and just hot is negated at about 10 degrees (100 degrees when it's hot and humid will feel comparable to 110 degrees just hot). Who's right?
posted by kat518 to Travel & Transportation (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It's very humid there.

West TX is dry heat. Austin is not west TX.
posted by dfriedman at 9:49 PM on June 26, 2010

Info on Austin's climate:,_Texas#Climate
posted by dfriedman at 9:50 PM on June 26, 2010

For someone living here, that sounds quite humorous. It's hot here, and it's humid here. We are further south, without the temperature-mitigating effect of a large body of water nearby.

What I didn't anticipate coming here was the sun, the sun is more direct. A midday sun up north that feels hot instead here feels like it is bearing down heavily on you. The sun is serious business.
posted by BurnMage at 9:53 PM on June 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

Native Texan says:

Hot and humid. You have to get a lot further north to begin to escape the humidity, and even up here in north Texas it's still humid sticky. Today was about 97F in Fort Worth with humidity of 57% and it was oppressive. The weather in Austin today was even more wring-out-your-shirt.

In all honesty, and I say this to anyone who's considering moving here, come for a "vacation" in July or August first. There are many fine things about Texas (food, music, sports teams, areas that aren't batshit insane politically), but the weather between May and October is not one of them.
posted by fireoyster at 9:54 PM on June 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

I guess it's humid here in Austin, but not compared to Florida it ain't (in my non-meteorological opinion).
posted by ejoey at 9:55 PM on June 26, 2010

DC is a swamp. Austin isn't. It's not a desert, but it's not as humid as, say, Chicago lakefront.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:56 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Native Texan, now living in Minnesota. Austin is hot as hell and humid as hell. Some days, you will swear your skin is melting off and your life in the summer will be a mad dash between air conditioned vehicles and air conditioned buildings. Growing up in Austin, I always thought that genetics had doomed me to have lousy skin and limp hair. Now, after five years here, I have perfect skin and bouncy shampoo model hair-it was the heat and humidity all along. When I go home to Austin in the summer, it takes about 72 hours for it all to go limp and gross and blotchy on me again.

Having said all that-Austin is an awesome place to live and I'd love to go back-just don't delude yourself into thinking the summers will be even remotely enjoyable. Oh, and if it matters-you do get used to it. Just like you get used to 20 below zero in January in Minnesota.
posted by supercapitalist at 10:05 PM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

to what restless_nomad is saying...

in the mid 90s there was a heat wave in Chicago which killed roughly 700 people. It was four days long and ranged between 106-109 degrees. The deadly aspect of this is what they call the "heat index" which incorporates the relative humidity. The heat index reached as high as 125 degrees at it's worst as measured at Midway airport.

I'm far from an authority on Austin weather, but I've never felt that kind of humidity in Austin. Perhaps it's the baking that the sun provides or maybe I've just gotten lucky the times I've been there.
posted by FlamingBore at 10:13 PM on June 26, 2010

It's hot and humid and whenever you're out (especially during the summer) you'll want to just rip your skin/clothes off because its burning and sweaty.

However, Austin is a wonderful city. The first time you experience Texas summer (which is hot and humid in general) will be annoying but as supercapitalist said, you get used to it. Jump into Barton Springs, Hamilton Pool, etc and you should be set!
posted by mrspeacock at 10:20 PM on June 26, 2010

Austin has been pretty dry the last couple of years, but it's also been suffering a drought. This summer is the first summer I've been here that hasn't been droughtlike. It's been humid a few days this summer by my standards (native Houstonian, so used to swamp conditions) but I wouldn't call it suffocatingly humid overall by any stretch of the imagination.

Having said that, it's hot as hell here at mid-day no matter what the humidity level is. You cope, avoid, and get used to it, though.

On preview: I know exactly what supercapitalist is talking about. That's the difference between Houston and Austin, even this summer, for me.
posted by immlass at 10:20 PM on June 26, 2010

The saying, "out of the frying pan and into the fire" fits aptly here. As others have said, both spots are hot and humid in the summer. The intensity of the sun is stronger in Austin and there isn't the same kind of tree cover you get in DC, but if you can stand DC, you can stand Austin - just don't go into it thinking you're escaping the heat and humidity.
posted by cecic at 10:21 PM on June 26, 2010

Austin gets a fair amount of rain in spring and Autumn, and it is a bit humid then, but when the real heat starts, July and August, there isn't that much humidity. I lived in DC quite a while, and I think it is generally more humid than Austin. At anyrate it is nothing like Houston or New Orleans, where people swim from building to building.
posted by Some1 at 10:24 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Some1-you are totally right about that. The three years I spent in New Orleans made the humidity in Austin seem like kid stuff. Standing still, in the shade, in a tank top and shorts, and you sweat like a pig. Ugh.
posted by supercapitalist at 10:28 PM on June 26, 2010

I moved to Austin from Phoenix so, of course, I thought it was the most dreadful humidity on earth. But it wasn't so bad if it stays under 100f. I'd take 115 in Phoenix over 105f in Austin any day. But it rarely got or stayed that hot with humidity in the 15 years I lived there. On gross humid days it we'd say "it's like Houston outside today". Austin isn't nearly as bad as other places I've been.

On the gross summer days remember that is payback for the mild and nice winters. When your friends are shoveling snow, you be outside in beautiful weather.
posted by birdherder at 10:29 PM on June 26, 2010

Austin isn't as humid as Houston, Miami, or even Seattle, if you've been any of those places. I can't imagine it being as muggy as D.C., but, yeah, visit during high summer to see if y'all can bear it.
posted by batmonkey at 11:14 PM on June 26, 2010

Yeah, compared to DC, Austin is DRY!

It's humid here, but DC is like Houston and no-one's gonna say that Austin is as humid as Houston. Well, I guess it is occasionally. It get's pretty bad for a few hours when the sun comes out after the rain.

If you've been living in that malarial swamp, Austin will feel very dry. Especially this summer (and last and the one before that . . . )
posted by Seamus at 11:14 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

When I lived in Austin, I was coming from Dallas, so it felt like wet heat to me. I guess it's all relative. It is definitely not desert dry like, say, Phoenix. When it's hot you will get sticky. But on the plus side, plants grow in Austin.
posted by zjacreman at 12:48 AM on June 27, 2010

As far as actual data go, Washington D.C. and Austin have very similar levels of humidity. As someone mentioned, D.C.'s humidity peaks later to coincide with hotter months, but the differences aren't all that large.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 6:36 AM on June 27, 2010

All true, but Austin is culturally adapted to its climate in ways few other US cities are.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:44 AM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

It is always hot. Whether it is also humid varies by year. This year it is fairly humid because it has been raining more regularly than usual for the summer. The last couple of years there was a drought (we are not still in a drought because it rained a lot during the fall, winter and spring), and it was more of a dry heat then. But every summer is different. It is less humid than D.C. for sure, though. I spent some time in Baltimore in mid-July one year and while the humidity was pretty oppressive, the heat was nothing compared to Austin.
posted by ishotjr at 6:53 AM on June 27, 2010

Oh, and what BurnMagr said about the sun being more direct and therefore more awful here is true.
posted by ishotjr at 6:56 AM on June 27, 2010

I am really enjoying these answers, because it shows how relative everyone's experience is. I used to live in Denver, and I thought that Austin was incredibly humid. Now I'm in Houston, and Austin is more of a dry heat. It's all perspective, baby.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 10:38 AM on June 27, 2010

Compared to DC, it's probably not humid. True story: I had two friends in college (here in Austin): one from Houston (very humid), one from the Texas panhandle (dry). One day the guy from the panhandle was complaining about the humidity even as the guy from Houston was getting a nosebleed because it was so dry—to him.

During the summer here, the heat stress is typically reported as about 5°F hotter than the actual temperature. FWIW.
posted by adamrice at 10:42 AM on June 27, 2010

Austin is very dry for me. But then again I spent 18 years in Taipei, Taiwan (a basin with extremely high humidity, close to that of Houston I would say).
posted by jstarlee at 11:50 AM on June 27, 2010

I lived in Austin for 3 years and have been in DC for 5. I found Austin to be just as humid as DC. I haven't lived there since 1996 so maybe my memory is faulty, but I have distinct memories of walking around the UT campus feeling like I had 1/16" layer of slime covering my entire body. I had to take 3 showers a day just to keep comfortable.

However the main difference for me is that anywhere else that I've lived, which is mostly along the NE corridor, you can count on a break. Yes you can have 1-2 week streaks of hellaciously hot and humid weather, but usually a cold front will pass through and you'll get a break, even if it's only for a day or two. For me, the summers in Austin were interminable. The unbearably hot weather would start sometime in late May and you could count on it not dipping below the mid-90s until late September/early October. There was NO BREAK - not a single day. Didn't matter if the most wild thunderstorms and rain storms passed through. It would be just as hot and miserable during and after the storm as it had been before it. Yes some days weren't so humid, but it was still hot as hell and just knowing that it wasn't going to end until October really depressed the hell out of me. Seriously, I had nightmares about Austin summers for a good 5 years after I'd moved away (The first hot day and I'd start panicking that it wasn't going to cool off until October, then I'd take a deep breath and remember that I wasn't in Austin any more). At least here in D.C. (which is still way to hot for me) even now that we are in the midst of a record breaking June, I at least have some hope that we'll have a few pleasant days to look forward to, scattered, however sparsely, throughout the summer. And last summer was quite pleasant most of the time, so every once in awhile, you can look forward to a freak summer. I don't think that ever happens in Austin.

But I really, really hate the heat, so my reaction is way more extreme than anyone else's may be.
posted by kaybdc at 2:08 PM on June 27, 2010

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