Remember the 2014 World Cup in Brazil where many of the teams were forced to take water breaks in the middle of the action? It was more than “common sense” (as it was literally a jungle out there at many of the venues), it was because scientists have compiled hard evidence that there’s a temperature point at which you’ll pretty much fall over and die. Studies show that, before we reach that point, our faculties and physical abilities are also temporarily impaired and our overall health can – and does – become permanently affected.
But if you think the World Cup was just an extreme example with superstar athletes on a global stage, there are also high school football and soccer players who often play in 100-degree heat. And that’s not even the real problem. The real problem is that the playing fields can often reach 175 degrees! No, that’s not a typo. One-hundred and seventy-five degrees fahrenheit. Hot enough to melt shoes.
Dr. Jennifer Vanos, Assistant Professor, Atmospheric Science, at Texas Tech University, specializes in the study of human biometeorology and bioclimatology (i.e., the connection between weather and climate to human health), with a specific focus on extreme heat, atmospheric radiation and air pollution exposure in urban areas. She’s at the forefront of putting together the hard evidence to prove that rising temps are truly affecting us directly every day – even more so because of the way our cities are built, structured and maintained.
Okay, so most of us aren’t high school footballers in Texas. But what about a normal, average stroll to the park? Or down the street in your city? With the growth of massive urban areas, the heat index in such places has dramatically risen, making even a trip to the corner store for a quart of milk a daunting task. Now think about the children – your children – who have to endure the explosion in urban growth that leads to more concrete and less vegetation, higher air pollution and less clean water, and ultimately more respiratory and health problems and less quality of life.
Dr. Vanos does real-time, highly-detailed atmospheric data capturing – yes, with a “homegrown” mobile weather monitoring device (with elements that airports and your local news don’t even have) – that she’s wheeled out in numerous environments to gather information that is starting to lead us to think harder about our urban designs and make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change, here, now, everyday.
Planet Experts spoke to Dr. Vanos and her colleague Katharine Hayhoe at Earth Day Texas 2016. In this exclusive video, Dr. Vanos introduces us to her mobile weather capture device and explains about the correlation between climate change and our health.
Earth Day Texas 2016 Series
- Texting for Climate Action With Dr. Katharine Hayhoe
- How Do You Make Climate Change Relevant to Kids?
- Touring Tiny Houses, Meeting Solar Speedsters
- Even Earth Day Is Bigger in Texas
- El Paso Students Built This Solar Car in 39 Days
- Lessons in Sustainability, or Why I’m Terrified of Hawks
- SlimFast Sea Turtles, Plastic Penguins & Toxic Camel Syndrome
- Theodore Roosevelt IV: ‘We’ve Got to Be More Sustainable’