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An advanced empirical model for quantifying the impact of heat and climate change on human physical work capacity

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journal contribution
posted on 08.03.2021, 12:14 by Josh Foster, James Smallcombe, Simon HodderSimon Hodder, Ollie Jay, Andreas Flouris, Lars Nybo, George HavenithGeorge Havenith
Occupational heat stress directly hampers physical work capacity (PWC), with large economic consequences for industries and regions vulnerable to global warming. Accurately quantifying PWC is essential for forecasting impacts of different climate change scenarios, but the current state of knowledge is limited, leading to potential underestimations in mild heat, and overestimations in extreme heat. We therefore developed advanced empirical equations for PWC based on 338 work sessions in climatic chambers (low air movement, no solar radiation) spanning mild to extreme heat stress. Equations for PWC are available based on air temperature and humidity, for a suite of heat stress assessment metrics, and mean skin temperature. Our models are highly sensitive to mild heat and to our knowledge are the first to include empirical data across the full range of warm and hot environments possible with future climate change across the world. Using wet bulb globe temperature (WBGT) as an example, we noted 10% reductions in PWC at mild heat stress (WBGT = 18°C) and reductions of 78% in the most extreme conditions (WBGT = 40°C). Of the different heat stress indices available, the heat index was the best predictor of group level PWC (R2 = 0.96) but can only be applied in shaded conditions. The skin temperature, but not internal/core temperature, was a strong predictor of PWC (R2 = 0.88), thermal sensation (R2 = 0.84), and thermal comfort (R2 = 0.73). The models presented apply to occupational workloads and can be used in climate projection models to predict economic and social consequences of climate change.

Funding

‘HEAT-SHIELD’, European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no. 668786

History

School

  • Design and Creative Arts

Department

  • Design

Published in

International Journal of Biometeorology

Volume

65

Pages

1215-1229

Publisher

Springer Verlag

Version

VoR (Version of Record)

Rights holder

© The authors

Publisher statement

This is an Open Access Article. It is published by Springer under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported Licence (CC BY). Full details of this licence are available at: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Acceptance date

23/02/2021

Publication date

2021-03-05

Copyright date

2021

ISSN

0020-7128

eISSN

1432-1254

Language

en

Depositor

Prof George Havenith. Deposit date: 6 March 2021