Generalized Struggles Against Heat

Jack Horton, Staff Writer

Every year with the coming of summer there exists a period of time where both heat and school overlap. Though many do not notice the heat due to air conditioning and building design, there are many less funded districts who deal with all the detrimental effects of heat. According to a study presented by EducationWeek, “Researchers found that cumulative heat exposure decreases the productivity of instructional time—without school air conditioning, a 1 degree hotter school year reduced that year’s learning by 1 percent.” As temperatures increase further, an exponential curve of academic functioning occurs which severely harms poorer districts’ abilities to keep up with the state criterions. Additionally, heat changes human psychology, according to EducationWeek as “heat can make people more impulsive and less able to regulate their behavior…As a result, students might act out more during hot days…Experts say this could extend to higher rates of bullying among students.”

Beyond the impact of academics or slight psychological changes, comes the more dangerous impact to schools, which hold indoor sporting events to get away from the heat. Many of the poorer schools are unable to provide this accommodation effectively. However, heat in the United States remains an issue regardless of school funding through the end and start of the next school year. During this period athletics often continues despite the heat waves. Additionally, there are also marching band events which can coincide dangerously with heat. According to OSAAToday, exertional heat stroke, also known as “EHS, is the leading cause of preventable death in high school athletics.“ Heat, though problematic, is amplified by humid environments, which makes the human body’s natural mechanism of sweat work less effectively. Britanaca says that there are actually many ways the body vents heat like “muscular activity, by perspiration [sweating], and by heat-exchange mechanisms that allow blood to circulate near the skin surface.” Despite all these mechanisms heat still manages to overwhelm the human body either directly or through dehydration.

However senior Hayden Stowe says that the “big impact here though that we are seeing is the smoke. From a lot of forest fires where it is getting a lot warmer and drier.” The beginning of the school year was particularly notable for a day where it was so smoky that the school moved the track location. According to Stowe, “During some of the race, the smoke and the heat kind of moved into [the track team]. [Track was] still racing in that really hot smoke and [he] actually passed out fully unconscious four times during that race.” But heat has more impact than just the direct effect on humans. Planets and livestock are harmed by the intense heat which has disastrous impacts on biology. Additionally, heat takes a toll on the electricity bill with many using air conditioning. According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, heat waves “can lower the ability of transmission lines to carry power.”

Despite knowledge of heat there are still misconceptions which many are prone to believing in. Fans, for example, move air between locations but do not actually generate coldness. The feeling of cold air from an indoor fan comes from the fan blowing on water molecules on the human body, which creates the perception of coolness. More myths exist with how humidity is measured. The Washington Post says that ”relative humidity is pretty useless for actually determining how humid it is. Instead, we use the dew point to figure out how much moisture is in the air.” This is due to the fact that many humid days may read only 40 percent to 50 percent relatively humid. The threshold for when the dew point becomes uncomfortable is 60 degrees. Another myth is that humid air is dense just because it feels dense. In fact humid air is actually less dense. The Washington Post says that “water molecules are lighter than nitrogen and oxygen. So, if you pump more water molecules into the air, which pushes out the heavier molecules, the air becomes less dense.”

The undeniable truth is that global climate change has and continues to cause extreme damage to the environment and heat remains one factor in this. Temperatures are predicted to increase with the upcoming years which will make all these effects far more noticeable. For immediate solutions, Stowe says that there should be more awareness “during strong heat conditions and that people should be able to opt out of [sports] activities or maybe staying indoors [with air conditioning].” Additionally, one might enjoy outdoor activities with nearby bodies of water. However, for long term solutions it is clear that a persistent push is needed against carbon emissions. Overall, society will have to accept that at this current rate of global climate change, there will need to be solutions to deal with the increasing heat, especially for poorer communities who lack the resources to uphold the necessary standards humans need.