WeatherSharon's Weather Blog


Science behind why cars heat up so quickly

The inside of a car can feel like an oven in minutes on sunny days
Posted at 4:22 PM, Jul 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-07 17:27:22-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — In the summer heat, cars can be some of the most dangerous places for pets and family members. It doesn’t take very long for the air inside a hot car to spike well above the outside temperature.

For example, when the outside temperature is 80 degrees, it only takes 10 minutes for the temperature inside the car to heat up to 99 degrees; up to 113 degrees in 10 minutes with an outside temperature of 94; and 137 degrees in an hour!

But even on relatively cool, sunny days, the temperature inside a parked car can quickly spike to life-threatening levels. A car's interior can heat up by an average of 40 degrees F within an hour, regardless of ambient temperature. Eighty percent of the temperature rise occurred within the first half-hour.

This is why it's important to never leave animals are children inside a closed car for any period of time.

The sun emits energy mostly in the form of shortwave radiation, which goes right through the glass of a car window. Shortwave radiation from the sun heats any object it strikes. Your vehicle’s dashboard, steering wheel, and seats can become too hot to touch, ranging in temperature from 180-200° after just a few minutes.

This heats up the air inside the car. Since the windows are closed, the heat can't escape. Longwave radiation can't pass through windows as easily as shortwave radiation and the heat gets trapped inside the car, like the Greenhouse Effect, turning temperatures inside the car from comfortably cool to dangerously hot and deadly in minutes.

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