What effect will a few degrees of climate change have on human heat balance? Implications for human activity

Int J Biometeorol. 2011 Mar;55(2):147-60. doi: 10.1007/s00484-010-0320-6. Epub 2010 May 12.


While many factors affecting human health that will alter with climate change are being discussed, there has been no discussion about how a warmer future will affect man's thermoregulation. Using historical climate data for an Australian city and projections for Australia's climate in 2070, we address the issue using heat balance modelling for humans engaged in various levels of activity from rest to manual labour. We first validate two heat balance models against empirical data and then use the models to predict the number of days at present and in 2070 that (1) sweating will be required to attain heat balance, (2) heat balance will not be possible and hyperthermia will develop, and (3) body temperature will increase by 2.5°C in less than 2 h, which we term "dangerous days". The modelling is applied to people in an unacclimatised and an acclimatised state. The modelling shows that, for unacclimatised people, outdoor activity will not be possible on 33-45 days per year, compared to 4-6 days per year at present. For acclimatised people the situation is less dire but leisure activity like golf will be not be possible on 5-14 days per year compared to 1 day in 5 years at present, and manual labour will be dangerous to perform on 15-26 days per year compared to 1 day per year at present. It is obvious that climate change will have important consequences for leisure, economic activity, and health in Australia.

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization / physiology*
  • Australia
  • Climate Change*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Sweating / physiology*
  • Temperature