Broad scale spatial modelling of wet bulb globe temperature to investigate impact of shade and airflow on heat injury risk and labour capacity in warm to hot climates

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Abstract

While shade and air flow are recognised factors that reduce outdoor heat exposure, the level of reduction in terms of labour capacity at varying air temperature and humidity levels is poorly understood. This study investigated cooling effects on the commonly used heat index, wet bulb globe temperature (WBGT), and subsequent impact on labour capacity, for a range of air flow and shade conditions in warm to hot climates. We modelled heat exposure using a physics-based method to map WBGT for a case study region which experiences a range of heat categories with varying levels of health risks for outdoor workers. Continent-scale modelling confirmed significant spatial variability in the effect of various shade and wind speed scenarios across a range of real-world mid-summer daytime conditions. At high WBGTs, increasing shade or air flow for outdoor workers lowered heat exposure and increases labour capacity, with shade giving the greatest benefit, but cooling varied considerably depending upon underlying air temperature and humidity. Shade had the greater cooling effect; reducing incident radiation by 90% decreased WBGT by 2–6 °C depending on location. Wind had a lower cooling effect in the hottest regions, with a decreasing exponential relationship between wind speed and WBGT observed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6531
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Volume20
Issue number15
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 05 Aug 2023

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