As we reach the height of summer 2022, heat waves are once again sweeping across the nation, and 70% of Americans find themselves bombarded with high temperatures and high humidity, making outdoor activity and work not only unappealing, but sometimes dangerous. In addition, news articles abound covering the severe drought conditions that have dropped water levels across the west and Colorado River Basin.
“The challenges we are seeing today are unlike anything we have seen in our history,” Commissioner for the Bureau of Reclamation, Camille Touton said at a recent senate hearing. Touton said hotter temperatures driven by climate change have led to less water reaching Lake Powell and Lake Mead, the two largest reservoirs in the country, both of which recently hit their lowest levels on record.
This past week, NPR’s Sean Saldana spoke with Dr. Kate Evans, an atmospheric scientist who develops weather models. Saldana explained that, while the hope is that the heat will break in the next few weeks, 45 million Americans remain under heat advisory. While global warming is creating more regular and intense storms and flooding events, more deaths occur from extreme heat-wave events than any other type of weather event, placing especially vulnerable populations at risk. Dr. Evans stated that “a proper response to this heat requires a careful analysis of people’s needs”.
Part of this response must focus on how those most exposed to heat are protected through a changing climate. While the long-term goal is to prevent further global warming, keeping people who belong to vulnerable populations, like young children, the elderly, and outdoor workers, safe in the meantime is extremely important. Especially as, by mid-century (if there is no reduction in global warming emissions) 18.4 million outdoor workers in the United States will see an average of seven or more workdays at risk from extreme heat. This creates a need for adaptation measures for human populations to deal with increasing heat events.
Climate-adaptive gear may have an outsized role to play. In the past, primitive cooling gear focused solely on sports and recreation, but now climate adaptive gear must be explored for people who are at risk in their day-to-day lives or work time spent outdoors. This means considering the elderly, especially when they are doing yard work or walking outdoors, as well as workers in agriculture, construction, roofing, and the numerous other sectors that rely heavily on outdoor work.
19°N developed Honu, the world’s first Active Cooling pack, designed specifically for mobile, outdoor use in a warming climate. The Honu backpack houses ThermoCore®, an active circulatory personal cooling system that lowers body temperatures by flushing cold water through advanced tubing in the pack, reducing the perception of atmospheric temperatures by up to 20°F. ThermoCore technology is not only applicable to recreation and sports, but could be used across outdoor work sectors and within high-risk populations. With new and improving technologies like ThermoCore, those who are the most vulnerable to heat can reduce the risk of related health issues, keeping people safe while work towards a cooler climate is being done.
Listen to the NPR segment here.