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Heat Index UPSC NOTE

What is heat index?

  • Heat index, also known as apparent temperature, is a measure of how the temperature feels to humans. 

  • Relative humidity is an important factor that determines heat index, along with air temperature.

How is the heat index calculated?

  • A complex formula to calculate heat index was published by Dr. Robert Steadman.

  • Dew point, which is the temperature at which gas is transformed into a liquid state, is an important factor in the calculation of heat index.

  • In terms of atmospheric moisture, it’s the temperature at which air cannot hold any more water vapour, and droplets of water begin to form. 

  • Dr. Steadman used 14 °C as the dew point in his calculations. 

  • Some countries have developed their own corresponding indices to measure heat index instead of using the one developed by Dr. Steadman.

Is it important to measure the heat index?

  • Hot air can hold more moisture than cold air.

  • Therefore, when temperature rises, the air’s capacity to hold moisture also increases, thus affecting the apparent temperature or heat index. 

  • Humidity is typically higher during heat waves — which is why the heat index at the time is usually higher than just the temperature because humid air can feel hotter to humans.

How does high humidity impact the human body?

  • High humidity can lead to heat stress, meaning the body is unable to get rid of excess heat.

  • Humans usually maintain a core temperature in the range of 36.1 to 37.2 °C. 

  • When the body is unable to get rid of excess heat, the heart rate increases due to a rise in core temperature, leading to heat-related exhaustion and rashes, among other symptoms. It can also be fatal if not addressed promptly.

  • At high temperatures, the human body can lose excess heat through perspiration and cool itself.

  • But when humidity is high as well, it is difficult to sweat and then for that sweat to evaporate because the air around is already saturated with moisture. This makes it difficult for the body to lose heat.

  • On the other hand, if the humidity is low, evaporation of sweat is easier, thus making the apparent temperature feel close to the actual air temperature.

  • This is why a measure of heat index is more useful than just the temperature to gauge the impact of heat on humans.

What measures can we take to adapt?

  • A heat index value of 67°C or above can be extremely dangerous for people and animals who have direct and prolonged exposure.

  • With climate change, it is likely that we will continue to witness record-breaking heat index values across the world. 

  • We will need to prepare and adapt to such extreme conditions by investing in early warning, making changes to work timings, and finding sustainable cooling solutions.

 

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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Heat Index UPSC NOTE
Heat Index UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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