Science Sunday: Is it helpful to wear a ball cap in the summer months?
Most heat loss is through our heads. So, is it helpful to wear a ball cap in the summer months?
Yes and no. It depends on the type of hat you're wearing.
On this week's Science Sunday we used an Infrared Thermometer to measure the temperature of two baseball caps. At the time, the air temperature was 80 degrees. After placing both hats in the sun for approximately 20 minutes, two very different readings emerged. The first, which was a black ball cap, measured 104-107 degrees, while the second, a white ball cap, measured 87-89 degrees. What a difference color makes!
Black is a blackbody. This means it absorbs all wavelengths. White, however, is not a blackbody and reflects all visible light. Some absorption still occurs, but the visible light waves are all reflected which is why we see white. The reflectance here, called albedo is the same reason the white ball cap measured not as hot, and why the black ball cap measured all absorption.
This is the same concept about why our poles continue to have snow and ice. There's ice in the Antarctic and Arctic poles year round, and the snow and ice is a big reason for this. Not only is the sun's angle very low in high latitudes, circles, but the snow and ice reflect the sun's light rays keeping the cold ongoing, along with the snow and ice ongoing. In the winter months, anywhere it snows, you'll notice colder days typically follow as light is being reflected off the snowpack ground.
So should you wear a ball cap? Sure, to protect your eyes, but it doesn't do your body temperature much good. A visor looks to be the best bet!
If you have a Science Sunday idea, feel free to email Meteorologist Brittany Beggs.