Chronic heat stress in tropical urban informal settlements

iScience. 2021 Nov 10;24(11):103248. doi: 10.1016/j.isci.2021.103248. eCollection 2021 Nov 19.


The health and economic impacts of extreme heat on humans are especially pronounced in populations without the means to adapt. We deployed a sensor network across 12 informal settlements in Makassar, Indonesia to measure the thermal environment that people experience inside and outside their homes. We calculated two metrics to assess the magnitude and frequency of heat stress conditions, wet bulb temperature and wet bulb globe temperature, and compared our in situ data to that collected by weather stations. We found that informal settlement residents experience chronic heat stress conditions, which are underestimated by weather stations. Wet bulb temperatures approached the uppermost limits of human survivability, and wet bulb globe temperatures regularly exceeded recommended physical activity thresholds, both in houses and outdoors. Under a warming climate, a growing number of people living informally will face potentially severe impacts from heat stress that have likely been previously overlooked or underestimated.

Keywords: Environmental health; Environmental issues; Weathering.