What is UV index? An expert explains what it means and how it’s calculated


In 2002, the World Health Organization compiled a list of values that were ranging from 0 to 11+ in order to make people more aware of the risks associated with spending time outside.

UV index tells you the danger of sun exposure for your skin. Where does it come from? The UV index is produced by ARPANSA, one of the most important agencies in Australia.

It accounts for about 80% of cancer diagnoses in Australia each year–most are caused by excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

What is the UV index?

It’s important to know when the sun is strong and when you should stay protected from its UV rays. The UV index tell you how much ultra-violet radiation is in the air on a given day.

The UV Index is a handy system that was made in order to help people around the world be more aware of the amount of time they spend outside during the time in which they can have a truly damaging sunburn.

When you’re deciding on a sunscreen, whether it be for your skin or your face, you’ll need to ensure that the item is suited for your needs. The SPF index provides symptoms of extreme skin damage and is measured in units of 10 or greater. This rating breaks down factors like protection against UVA/UVB rays and ingredients, such as avobenzone.

What is UV radiation?

The important part of the Sun’s light spectrum for humans is the UV radiation. This is a range of wavelengths too short for our eyes to see, from around 400 nanometres to 10 nanometres.

There are two important types of UV radiation: UV-A, with wavelengths from 400 to 315 nanometres, and UV-B, with wavelengths from 315 to 280 nanometres. (Shorter wavelengths are called “UV-C” but they mostly bounce off the atmosphere.)

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How is the UV index calculated?

Australia uses a network of sensors to measure sunlight at different wavelengths and calculate the UV index. The data is available online in real time.

How are UV levels different around the world?

The UV index is reported in different styles, but it usually refers to the daily maximum. The highest it gets is based on a number of factors that are unique to the individual and their location.

The sun’s intensity is not just dependent on where you are, but also on the amount of air it has to pass through in order to reach the ground. Places like Australia and North America have roughly 20% more earth’s atmosphere per unit area than places like Europe or Asia so the sun spends more time striking those land masses. A few reasons for this are that they are less densely populated meaning they have less reflective surface area, and they experience a lower average temperature meaning their plants grow slower and therefore reflect less light.

One of the many reasons why Australia is a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts is that their major cities are closer to the Equator than most big cities in Europe or North America. Another reason is that Earth is closer to the Sun by a few percent during the summer in Australia than it would be elsewhere, meaning sunlight is a few percent brighter in Australia than it would be elsewhere.

A third reason is that Australia’s ‘hole’ in its ozone layer sits on top of a continent — people often get smoke, dust and other small particle pollution that blocks some UV radiation further up into their atmosphere. While this makes their air cleaner overall, pollution does absorb or block some UV rays as well.

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Is UV changing over time?

Scientists agree that the ozone layer has been severely damaged. As the world’s population has grown, so have our exposure to UV-risk products, such as sun care,and more sunscreen is being used than ever before.

By 2050, all we know is that the ozone layer will slowly recover from the effects of CFCs, which reduces and protects from UV rays; however we expect there will be more and greater exposure in the future due to increased air pollution from additional fossil fuel use. Researchers estimate impacts on clouds, which are influenced by climate change, and not just the ozone layer’s recovery.

Some research points to more influx or less cloud cover as a result of climate change and possible increases in UV levels overall.

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