A day with America’s only dedicated heat team in the US’s hottest city

Read the full story in The Guardian.

The pioneering team was created last year amid pressure from activists, faith groups and experts to make Phoenix, Arizona, more livable.

New online mapping tool helps California prepare for extreme heat

Read the full story from UCLA.

As summer kicks off and California braces for more record-breaking temperatures, a new tool co-developed by UCLA researchers will help government officials, school administrators and communities visualize the neighborhoods most in danger from extreme heat. Low-income residents and communities of color are impacted most by hot weather, which is the deadliest effect of climate change in California.

HEAT.gov — National Integrated Heat Health Information System

Heat related illnesses and death are largely preventable with proper planning, education, and action. Heat.gov serves as the premier source of heat and health information for the nation to reduce the health, economic, and infrastructural impacts of extreme heat.

Extreme heat is here. Here’s how we create a heat-resilient nation.

Read the full story at Smart Cities Dive.

In the face of worsening climate change, helping communities manage heat effects will require cooperation among local, state and federal governments, one researcher writes.

Heat risk and young athletes — rising temperatures lead to lawsuits and environmental injustice

Many young athletes spend hours in the hot sun every day. Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images

by Jessica R. Murfree, Texas A&M University and Natasha Brison, Texas A&M University

At least 50 high school football players in the U.S. have died from heat stroke in the past 25 years. And high school athletes in other sports are not immune from the risks – female cross-country athletes are twice as likely to suffer from heat-related illnesses as athletes in any other high school sport.

The numbers are especially shocking when you consider that heat-related illnesses and deaths are entirely preventable.

While sports equipment has improved over time to protect against concussions, young players and college athletes are facing increasing risks from rising heat.

We study sport ecology and legal aspects of sport. With summer temperatures rising, we believe many youth sports leagues and school districts will need to aggressively update their practice rules and heat policies to keep their players safe. We suggest particular attention be paid to low-income, minority neighborhoods and regions that can get excessively hot.

Heat risks in youth sports

Each year, summer marks the return of discussions of just how severe the sweltering heat is. Nine of the 10 hottest years on record globally have been since 2012, and this year’s late-spring and early-summer heat waves were previews for what forecasters warned would be a brutal summer of 2022.

Yet many interscholastic and preparatory sport summer camps have kids running hard through the summer months, sometimes on days that reach triple-digit temperatures.

In a period of rapid climate change, ensuring heat risks remain preventable is critical.

A young player sits against a fence next to a track looking exhausted while a man crouches down next to him and talks to him.
An athletic trainer helps a teenage football player who had trouble after running during August training at a Maryland high school. Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images

Heat is the most frequent climate-related killer in the United States, with more deaths associated with it than tornadoes, floods and cold temperatures. And days of extreme heat and humidity are now surpassing concerning levels for human health. Overall, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported an average of more than 700 heat-related U.S. deaths each year between 2004 and 2018. Some of the hottest years ever recorded have happened since then, and preliminary data detailing heat deaths in the U.S. indicates the rate increased 56% from 2018 to 2021.

Extreme heat due to climate change is making sport participation progressively challenging.

For high school athletes, the prevalence of extreme heat is leading to escalating heat-related illness, injuries, hospitalizations and deaths. In fact, heat stroke is a leading cause of death in sports.

Unsurprisingly, the greatest concentration of heat illness in young athletes occurs in August: the back-to-school and back-to-sports season.

When heat risks trigger lawsuits

Recognizing the warning signs can be especially challenging for children and teens. Young people are still learning how to communicate their feelings and experiences, and that can be more difficult in sport environments that promote toughness and perseverance. Ultimately, young athletes must trust adults to protect them.

Evidence suggests the prevalence of exertional heat stroke among high school athletes is largely due to young athletes’ not acclimatizing, or physically adjusting to the heat, particularly in the first few weeks of practice. Although heat policies related to temperature and hydration exist at the high school level, they aren’t always enforced. And they may need to be improved to reflect the warming climate given the rate of heat illness.

Illustration of human body listing symptoms of heat strike and heat exhaustion
Signs of heat illness and what to do. Elenabs via Getty Images

As a result, parents and guardians are faced with how best to advocate for their children.

In some cases, families have sued after heat injuries, both to recover money for their child’s suffering and to drive change in the hope that no other child will have to endure what others have. However, the heat injuries continue to rise.

Adults’ responsibility to keep children safe in sport settings becomes blurry as the growth in legal challenges related to heat illness demonstrates a disconnect between adults’ duty of care and athletes’ well-being. Negligence is a common claim associated with these lawsuits. Allegations of child endangerment or wrongful death can lead to civil or criminal legal disputes. But can reactive legal action prevent these heat injuries in the long run?

The fact that heat injuries are preventable is often why legal cases alleging negligence and wrongful death are successful. Still, heat stress, heat exhaustion, heatstroke and sunstroke are not uncommon in sports. Medical researchers have described heat illness among athletes as one of the most prominent pieces of evidence of climate change’s hazards and effect on sport.

Climate injustice for young athletes

Extreme heat can also enhance existing injustices and inequities.

For example, non-Hispanic Black Americans suffer heat-related deaths at a rate higher than the U.S. average. That doubles for Indigenous and Native Americans, who report the highest death rate from heat.

For athletes, the consequences of extreme heat can further complicate environmental and climate injustice. For instance, racial minorities and those in lower socioeconomic brackets have greater chances of living in the warmest areas, including urban heat islands, where heat trapped by pavement and buildings can make temperatures several degrees hotter than the city average.

A map showing hospitalizations peak at heat indices in California and the Northwest than other parts of the country.
The heat index is a combination of heat and humidity. Heat-related hospitalizations begin rising at lower heat index values in normally cooler parts of the country. Climate Central, CC BY-ND

At the same time, efforts are underway to diversify the sport landscape and provide equitable access to sport and recreation for all people. A vicious cycle spins between social justice – efforts to diversify sports – and environmental and climate justice, in which the most vulnerable communities face the greatest climate harm and health risks but are underresourced and ill-equipped to adapt to the changing climate.

Moving forward

Sports leagues and athletes have taken a stand on many social issues, but they are often reactive when implementing and advocating for change.

For instance, leagues implemented regulatory policies regarding brain safety only after countless tragedies. People began to focus on traumatic brain injury and chronic traumatic encephalopathy after the deaths of numerous NFL players and a blockbuster film.

The heat-related deaths of collegiate and NFL football players, notably Minnesota Vikings player Korey Stringer, have drawn some attention to the risks. Tokyo 2020 Olympians and FIFA World Cup organizers have cited the need for regulatory changes because of the effects of extreme heat on athlete health. But it’s often only after a tragedy that improvements are made to protect young athletes from heat illness.

Two teenage players drink from large coolers near a playing field
Requiring breaks that allow athletes to cool off can save lives. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

The sport sector can make immediate practical and policy-related adaptations to extreme heat to protect children. These include modifying practice schedules, increasing the number of water breaks, revising athletic heat policies to reflect climate change, and implementing procedures to ensure compliance by coaches and athletic administrators.

Texas A&M students Ariana Taylor and Ashwin Mathew in the DeBakey Executive Research Leadership Program contributed to this article.

Jessica R. Murfree, Visiting Assistant Professor of Sport Management and ACES Faculty Fellow, Texas A&M University and Natasha Brison, Assistant Professor of Sport Management, Texas A&M University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How hot is too hot for the human body? Our lab found heat + humidity gets dangerous faster than many people realize

Long-term exposure to high heat can become lethal. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

by W. Larry Kenney, Penn State; Daniel Vecellio, Penn State; Rachel Cottle, Penn State, and S. Tony Wolf, Penn State

Heat waves are becoming supercharged as the climate changes – lasting longer, becoming more frequent and getting just plain hotter. One question a lot of people are asking is: “When will it get too hot for normal daily activity as we know it, even for young, healthy adults?”

The answer goes beyond the temperature you see on the thermometer. It’s also about humidity. Our research shows the combination of the two can get dangerous faster than scientists previously believed.

Scientists and other observers have become alarmed about the increasing frequency of extreme heat paired with high humidity, measured as “wet-bulb temperature.” During the heat waves that overtook South Asia in May and June 2022, Jacobabad, Pakistan, recorded a maximum wet-bulb temperature of 33.6 C (92.5 F) and Delhi topped that – close to the theorized upper limit of human adaptability to humid heat.

People often point to a study published in 2010 that estimated that a wet-bulb temperature of 35 C – equal to 95 F at 100% humidity, or 115 F at 50% humidity – would be the upper limit of safety, beyond which the human body can no longer cool itself by evaporating sweat from the surface of the body to maintain a stable body core temperature.

It was not until recently that this limit was tested on humans in laboratory settings. The results of these tests show an even greater cause for concern.

The PSU H.E.A.T. Project

To answer the question of “how hot is too hot?” we brought young, healthy men and women into the Noll Laboratory at Penn State University to experience heat stress in a controlled environment.

These experiments provide insight into which combinations of temperature and humidity begin to become harmful for even the healthiest humans.

A young man in shorts walks on a treadmill with a towel beside him in a glass-enclosed room while a scientist monitors his body temperature and other conditions on computer screens on the other side of the glass.
S. Tony Wolf, a postdoctoral researcher in kinesiology at Penn State and co-author of this article, conducts a heat test in the Noll Laboratory as part of the PSU Human Environmental Age Thresholds project. Patrick Mansell / Penn State, CC BY-NC-ND

Each participant swallowed a small telemetry pill, which monitored their deep body or core temperature. They then sat in an environmental chamber, moving just enough to simulate the minimal activities of daily living, such as cooking and eating. Researchers slowly increased either the temperature in the chamber or the humidity and monitored when the subject’s core temperature started to rise.

That combination of temperature and humidity whereby the person’s core temperature starts to rise is called the “critical environmental limit.” Below those limits, the body is able to maintain a relatively stable core temperature over time. Above those limits, core temperature rises continuously and risk of heat-related illnesses with prolonged exposures is increased.

When the body overheats, the heart has to work harder to pump blood flow to the skin to dissipate the heat, and when you’re also sweating, that decreases body fluids. In the direst case, prolonged exposure can result in heat stroke, a life-threatening problem that requires immediate and rapid cooling and medical treatment.

Our studies on young healthy men and women show that this upper environmental limit is even lower than the theorized 35 C. It’s more like a wet-bulb temperature of 31 C (88 F). That would equal 31 C at 100% humidity or 38 C (100 F) at 60% humidity.

A chart allows users to see when the combination of heat and humidity becomes dangerous at each degree and percentage.
Similar to the National Weather Service’s heat index chart, this chart translates combinations of air temperature and relative humidity into critical environmental limits, above which core body temperature rises. The border between the yellow and red areas represents the average critical environmental limit for young men and women at minimal activity. W. Larry Kenney, CC BY-ND

Dry vs. humid environments

Current heat waves around the globe are approaching, if not exceeding, these limits.

In hot, dry environments the critical environmental limits aren’t defined by wet-bulb temperatures, because almost all the sweat the body produces evaporates, which cools the body. However, the amount humans can sweat is limited, and we also gain more heat from the higher air temperatures.

Keep in mind that these cutoffs are based solely on keeping your body temperature from rising excessively. Even lower temperatures and humidity can place stress on the heart and other body systems. And while eclipsing these limits does not necessarily present a worst-case scenario, prolonged exposure may become dire for vulnerable populations such as the elderly and those with chronic diseases.

Our experimental focus has now turned to testing older men and women, since even healthy aging makes people less heat tolerant. Adding on the increased prevalence of heart disease, respiratory problems and other health problems, as well as certain medications, can put them at even higher risk of harm. People over the age of 65 comprise some 80%-90% of heat wave casualties.

How to stay safe

Staying well hydrated and seeking areas in which to cool down – even for short periods – are important in high heat.

While more cities in the United States are expanding cooling centers to help people escape the heat, there will still be many people who will experience these dangerous conditions with no way to cool themselves.

The lead author of this article, W. Larry Kenney, discusses the impact of heat stress on human health with PBS NewsHour.

Even those with access to air conditioning might not turn it on because of the high cost of energy – a common occurrence in Phoenix, Arizona – or because of large-scale power outages during heat waves or wildfires, as is becoming more common in the western U.S.

A recent study focusing on heat stress in Africa found that future climates will not be conducive to the use of even low-cost cooling systems such as “swamp coolers” as the tropical and coastal parts of Africa become more humid. These devices, which require far less energy than air conditioners, use a fan to recirculate the air across a cool, wet pad to lower the air temperature, but they become ineffective at high wet-bulb temperatures above 21 C (70 F).

All told, the evidence continues to mount that climate change is not just a problem for the future. It is one that humanity is currently facing and must tackle head-on.

W. Larry Kenney, Professor of Physiology, Kinesiology and Human Performance, Penn State; Daniel Vecellio, Geographer-climatologist and Postdoctoral Fellow, Penn State; Rachel Cottle, Ph.D. Candidate in Exercise Physiology, Penn State, and S. Tony Wolf, Postdoctoral Researcher in Kinesiology, Penn State

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why Europe is becoming a heat wave hot spot

Read the full story in the New York Times.

Two months ago, France experienced its hottest May on record, with record highs in some cities. Last month, France was blistered again, by a spring heat wave that also affected Spain, Italy and other countries. Then, this month, Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe suffered during a spell of extreme heat.

Now temperatures across Europe are soaring yet again, at or near triple digits from Spain to the British Isles and spreading east. Wildfires stoked by the heat are burning in many countries, and much of the continent is in the throes of a lengthy drought.

And there are still two months of summer left.

Scientists say the persistent extreme heat already this year is in keeping with a trend. Heat waves in Europe, they say, are increasing in frequency and intensity at a faster rate than almost any other part of the planet, including the Western United States.

Global warming plays a role, as it does in heat waves around the world, because temperatures are on average about 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) higher than they were in the late 19th century, before emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases became widespread. So extreme heat takes off from a higher starting point.

But beyond that, there are other factors, some involving the circulation of the atmosphere and the ocean, that may make Europe a heat wave hot spot.

Cities launch short and long-term strategies to combat heat waves

Read the full story at Smart Cities Dive.

This week brings a new heat dome over much of the U.S. Cities have to adapt to more dangerous summers, but policies and strategies vary.

City agencies fail to intervene before three older women die in uncooled apartment building

Read the full story from the Better Government Association.

A half dozen calls for help from a Rogers Park apartment complex went unheeded by city officials last month amid the season’s first heat wave that killed three senior tenants, a Better Government Association investigation found.

That’s because city officials say there was nothing they could do, given the lack of city laws to require landlords to cool their buildings during heat waves.

One alderwoman who visited the site two days before the deaths said she immediately joined the chorus of people trying to persuade building managers to turn off the heat and to turn on the air conditioning — all to no avail.

A heat wave’s lamented victim: The mango, India’s king of fruits

Read the full story in the New York Times.

Blistering spring temperatures have devastated crops of the country’s most beloved fruit. “The soul of a farmer shudders at seeing these fruitless trees,” one grower said.