MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - We have all been there, climbing inside a car on a hot summer day. The temperature feels excessively hotter inside the vehicle than it does on the outside. Why is it? What causes the temperature to climb so high inside a vehicle?
In this episode of The Breakdown, we will explain the process that causes cars to get so warm when parked outside on a hot summer day.
The main culprit of the hot interior of a car is the greenhouse effect. The same process that traps heat in the atmosphere and keeps in check for us to live on this planet, causes the high heat in our cars, trucks and sport utility vehicles.
The glass around the car allows the sunlights rays to enter the car while on the road, in a parking lot or parked at home. The suns shortwave radiation will pass into the car through the glass.
While the windows are warmed slightly, the darker objects inside the car, like the dashboard, steering wheel, seats and more, are heated greatly due to their low albedo. This then heats the surrounding air through convection and conduction.
The albedo of an object is how much radiation it will absorb. Lighter colored objects, such as snow, will reflect the radiation away keeping it cooler. While darker colored objects, such as pavement, will absorb the radiation making it much warmer.
The mini greenhouse effect making cars hot inside will cause the car to heat up quickly too. With a 90 degree temperature outside in just 30 minutes a car will feel like nearly 130 degrees inside.
While many people think cracking your window will make a difference, it has little effect on efficiently cooling a vehicle down. Sunshades do offer some cooling as it will reflect the suns rays away from getting inside the vehicle.
Hot cars are not only uncomfortable they can be very dangerous to your health. Being in high heat for too long can cause heat illnesses such as heatstroke and hyperthermia, with excess heat can lead to death. That is why it is always important to check the back seat before leaving a car if you have children.