How extreme summer heat affects your body and brain
As the mercury creeps up over the summer, it gets harder to do anything other than curl up inside an air-conditioned room or dive into the ocean.
If you've noticed that recent summers have felt particularly hot, you're not wrong. The past four years have been the hottest four on record around the globe, with this year tracking to be the fourth hottest year ever. Heat in 2018 has already set all kinds of records, including the hottest temperature ever measured in Africa and the hottest overnight temperature ever recorded.
Unfortunately, that trend is expected to continue.
As humans continue to pump greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, more of the heat that our world absorbs from the sun gets trapped, raising the world's average temperature and triggering other changes.
By 2050, cities in the US and around the world are expected to see a skyrocketing number of days with temperatures topping 100 degrees, and temperatures are projected to climb even higher by 2100. New York City, which has an annual average of zero days above 100 degrees Fahrenheit now, is expected to see 11 days like that per year by 2050 and 30 such days by 2100. Houston, which currently sees two days that top 100, is expected to get 30 such days by 2050 and 76 by 2100.
That heat isn't just uncomfortable. The warming has serious effects on people's physical health, mental well-being, and cognitive ability.
Here's what science tells us about how extreme heat affects the body and brain.
Heat causes heat exhaustion, which can be dangerous.
Once a person gets hot enough, they can develop heat stroke.
Extreme heat makes us dumber.
Heat causes air pollution and air quality to get worse, which makes it harder to breathe and leads to disease.
Abnormally high temperatures can cause suicide rates to spike.
Hotter weather causes mental well-being to deteriorate.
Warmer weather makes allergies and asthma even worse.
Heat waves are the deadliest form of extreme weather, responsible for more deaths in the US every year than the combined effects of hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, earthquakes, and floods.
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