As we march toward the official start of summer, just a week from Saturday believe it or not, more and more people are spending a prolonged period of time outside. You'll hear me suggest grabbing the shades and sunscreen in pretty much every weather report I give for the next few months. I'll mention the UV index on certain days as well, particularly if it's expected to be high, but what do those numbers actually mean?


The amount of UV radiation from the sun depends on several things, such as the sun's height in the sky, latitude, clouds, altitude, ozone, and ground reflection. Since summer is when the sun is highest in the sky and days are longest, UV radiation exposure will be at its peak the next couple of months. Typically the highest UV index numbers we'll see here in upstate New York are between 8 and 10. You'll usually only see UV index numbers of 10 or more in the Deep South. Remember that crazy sunburn you got while on vacation in Florida? The reason for that is because the closer you get to the equator, the more direct the sunlight becomes. There's also less cloud cover and ozone to absorb the UV light.


So before you head out to lay by the pool, jump in the boat, hit the hiking trail, ball field, or golf course, don't forget your sun protection. Here are some helpful tips for enjoying your favorite outdoor activities in the sun this summer:

  • Limit time in the midday sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., particularly on days when the UV index is high
  • When UV rays are most intense and you must be outside, try to find shade and wear protective clothing, including a hat that provides sun protection for your head, face and neck
  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least 15 SPF and reapply every 2 hours
  • Water, snow, and sand reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn
  • Dress infants in lightweight long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and brimmed hats

For the latest UV Index forecast click here