Identifying the need for locally-observed wet bulb globe temperature across outdoor athletic venues for current and future climates in a desert environment

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Exertional heat illness and stroke are serious concerns across youth and college sports programs. While some teams and governing bodies have adopted the wet bulb globe temperature (WBGT), few practitioners use measurements on the field of play; rather, they often rely on regionally modeled or estimated WBGT. However, urban development-induced heat and projected climate change increase exposure to heat. We examined WBGT levels between various athletic surfaces and regional weather stations under current and projected climates and in hot-humid and hot-dry weather regimes in the southwest U.S. in Tempe, Arizona. On-site sun-exposed WBGT data across five days (07:00-19:00 local time) in June (dry) and August (humid) were collected over five athletic surfaces: rubber, artificial turf, clay, grass, and asphalt. Weather station data were used to estimate regional WBGT (via the Liljegren model) and compared to on-site, observed WBGT. Finally, projected changes to WBGT were modeled under mid-century and late-century conditions. On-field WBGT observations were, on average, significantly higher than WBGT estimated from regional weather stations by 2.4 °C-2.5 °C, with mean on-field WBGT across both months of 28.5 ± 2.76 °C (versus 25.8 ± 3.21 °C regionally). However, between-athletic surface WBGT differences were largely insignificant. Significantly higher mean WBGTs occurred in August (30.1 ± 2.35 °C) versus June (26.9 ± 2.19 °C) across all venues; August conditions reached 'limit activity' or 'cancellation' thresholds for 6-8 h and 2-4 h of the day, respectively, for all sports venues. Climate projections show increased WBGTs across measurement locations, dependent on projection and period, with average August WBGT under the highest representative concentration pathway causing all-day activity cancellations. Practitioners are encouraged to use WBGT devices within the vicinity of the fields of play, yet should not rely on regional weather station estimations without corrections used. Heat concerns are expected to increase in the future, underlining the need for athlete monitoring, local cooling design strategies, and heat adaptation for safety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number124042
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Volume16
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Keywords

  • athletics
  • climate change
  • extreme heat
  • heat illness
  • humidity
  • solar radiation
  • wet bulb globe temperature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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