“Five Guardsmen were stretchered off Horse Guards Parade after fainting in the sweltering heat during the Trooping the Colour ceremony.”
It is a common myth that heat only affects the elderly and the dehydrated. But higher than normal temperatures can affect anyone due to a number of factors, even healthy young men as this recent incident in the UK.
The affects of Climate Change and rising temperatures are all around us and are affecting our daily lives. Here is another story that emerged from the recent hot weather in the UK, see Teenage boys wear skirts to school to protest against ‘no shorts’ policy . After centuries of tradition it is now too hot in summer in the UK for school boys to wear long pants!
No English men are not weaklings, temperatures are rising in the UK too and people become acclimatised to certain temperature ranges. This can and does happen to Australian soldiers and sportsmen during heatwaves too (the fainting, not wearing skirts?).
There are a number of factors that affect our bodies ability to tolerate extreme heat events, not just age and hydration. Factors include, alcohol, drugs, medication, illness, over excursion (sport) and in particular night time temperatures, especially if temperatures remain above 25C at night. Those without air-conditioning really suffer and become less productive, because their bodies do not get any reprieve to time to recuperate. In other words, first day of a heatwave is easier to tolerate than subsequent days, as our bodies become more stressed over time. Extended heatwaves are bad news and kill more people than all other natural disasters combined (forest fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc).
You can’t just look at the temperature on certain day, it is very important to factor in humidity, see the chart below. A 33C day can feel like 44C if the humidity is 60%. With the ‘Greenhouse Effect’ (Climate Change) comes higher humidity as we are already seeing in Perth.
According to Sherwood and Huber, “Heat stress is already a leading cause of fatalities from natural phenomena (11, 12). While fatalities appear associated with warm nights (13), hot days alter the lifestyles and work productivity of those living at low latitudes (14). Both impacts will clearly worsen in warmer climates (15, 16), but most believe humans will simply adapt, reasoning that humans already tolerate a very wide range of climates today. But when measured in terms of peak heat stress—including humidity—this turns out to be untrue. We show that even modest global warming could therefore expose large fractions of the population to unprecedented heat stress, and that with severe warming this would become intolerable.”
In summery, individuals can be affected by heat due to a combination of factors; temperature + humidity + acclimatisation + medication and health factors + night time temperatures + hydration.
What can we do? All we can do is to try stay cool during heatwaves and mitigate against rising temperatures by drastically reducing carbon emissions and planting and protecting trees and forests. Most people live in cities and surrounding suburbs so urban forests are very important. Leafy suburbs can be 10C cooler than desert suburbs on a 40C day. Even people with air-conditioning should be concerned; 1. because they might have to go outside and 2. power blackouts are common during heatwaves. It should also be noted that air-conditioners produce a lot of heat, which makes urban temperatures worse. Growing trees is the most cost efficient and effective way of reducing urban temperatures.
What is your local Council doing to increase your urban forest? Many Governments and local Councils here and around the world have created or are in the process of creating, Urban Forest Strategies to increase tree canopy cover to reduce urban temperatures. See our recent post about the City of Stirling’s Urban Forest Strategy.