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Research shows that the combination of temperature and humidity can get more 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.” A 2010 study estimated the wet bulb temperature of 95 F at 100% humidity or 115 F at 50% humidity as the upper limit of safety. Recently this limit was tested on humans in a laboratory setting and showed that the wet-bulb temperature is actually 88 F at 100% humidity or 100 F at 60% humidity.
The combination of temperature and humidity whereby a person’s core temperature starts to rise is called the “critical environmental limit.”
Global heat waves are approaching and exceeding the critical environmental limit.
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.
The cutoffs are based on keeping your body temperature from rising too much. Even lower temperatures and humidity can stress the heart and other body systems, and prolonged exposure may become extreme for the elderly and those with chronic diseases.
In high heat, staying well hydrated and finding areas to cool down are important.
The evidence continues to mount that climate change is a problem humanity must tackle head-on.
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