Materials absorb and release heat at different rates. That’s why, for example, there is often a wind coming in from the sea in the afternoon, even when the day has been calm: Land heats and cools faster than ocean, and rising air over the land draws in sea air. (Later at night, when the land cools, the opposite happens.)
Sand and dirt will get equally hot, however, depending on what color they are, and their composition. I.e., if you stuck a 1 lb. sample of each in the oven for an hour, they would be the same temperature.
What you are perceiving is a genuine difference in the reflectance and absorption of materials. More than likely the biggest difference you notice has to do with sand having a relatively smooth surface, while dirt can be very irregular and porous, making it take longer to heat. Also, of course, dirt is more likely to have at least some vegetation, and be shaded. In many situations, then, dirt will be cooler than sand in the same neighborhood. But if the dirt was nearly black, and tamped down, and had no plants … it could be hotter than the nearby white sand.
The water on a beach will nearly always be cooler on your tootsies than either of them. Can you figure out why?
Depends on moisture. If we are comparing dry sand and wet dirt, most certainly sand would get warmer. The specific heat (how much heat it takes to warm up a certain area) of wet mud is 3 times higher than that of sand.
The water present in the wet dirt is going to keep the dirt cold. It takes more energy to heat up the water than rocks and minerals that are present in sand.
If we are comparing dry dirt and dry sand, then I believe they will heat up similarly, although I also think that the large surface area of the rocks and minerals in sand would make it warmer, but this I am unsure of.
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