Extreme heat taxes the body in many ways. Here’s how
July 2023 was the hottest month ever recorded. It could even be the hottest month in human history.
And it’s just one in a chain of broken heat records (SN: 7/13/23). A record-breaking heat wave is still lingering in the U.S. Southwest. In 2020, temperatures jumped to 38° Celsius in Siberia, marking the highest ever recorded in the Arctic Circle (SN: 7/01/20). Nine of the 10 hottest years on record have taken place in the last decade.
That heat has tested the limits of our very bodies to tragic effect: In 2003, an estimated 70,000 people died from a European heat wave. In 2022, another heat wave there caused some 62,000 deaths. Thousands more have died in other extreme heat events, and even more have suffered heat illness or injury.
The human body can adapt to heat, but only to a certain point, research has shown (SN: 7/27/22).
“The body works quite hard to keep the core body temperature within a pretty narrow range,” says Kristie Ebi, who researches climate change and health at the University of Washington in Seattle. “If you can’t cool down that core…