Heat Events and Health Burden in the Tropics Because of Global Warming

Heat events are increasing at an alarming rate and are one of the direct impacts of climate change. Human’s physiological response to heat events depends not only on temperature, but also on humidity, wind, radiation, and the clothing pattern and working condition of the person exposed to the extreme heat. Therefore, the mortality and morbidity burden of heat events can vary across the tropics depending on the local and socio-demographic conditions. One limitation of the current knowledge on heat waves and heat wave warnings is that they are derived from data in temperate zones, rather than the more unpredictable, tropical environments.

We plan to model the heat exchange between the human body and the surrounding environment and how it is influenced by climatic factors. This will enable us to understand the potential benefits on human health of various early intervention methods. To understand this, we will examine health and climate data from India and Australia to develop a heat mortality model. Furthermore, we expect to project the health burden attributable to heat events under various climate change scenarios for the two countries.

A range of questions will be asked to understand the different heat types in the tropics and subtropics. There will be a range of different tropical heat data collected as these have been flagged as potential pathways that the heat-health connection differs from temperate zones. These include smaller day shifts, longer days in the 98th percentile of extreme heat days, high night-time temperatures, and high humidity. These initial studies will use existing data from the Bureau of Meteorology and other Health Services. This project will follow on from conclusions in the recent UQ paper ‘Impact of low-intensity heat events on mortality and morbidity in regions with hot, humid summers: a scoping literature review’.

Project members

Vineetha Vincent

PhD Candidate (UQ-IITD)

A/Prof Nicholas Osborne

Theme Leader, Environmental Health Epidemiology