Battling the heatwave: The how, what and why.
How’s the weather? If you’re in South or Southeast Asia, chances are you’re enduring scorching heat right now. According to reports, temperatures have reached a record high to levels we haven’t experienced in decades. Unfortunately, experts advise that it’s only going to get worse as El Niño hits later in the year. As we battle the heatwave, let’s learn a little more about what’s going on, and how to cool down.
Why on Earth is it so hot?
There are many reasons why temperatures are unusually high. There’s climate change, heatwaves, the Urban Heat Island Effect and El Niño. When some of these phenomena happen at the same time, that’s when it hits us the hardest.
The cause of heatwaves
Heatwaves are when the weather is hotter than it should be for that period of the year, extending for two or more days. They happen when air gets trapped. Instead of cycling around the globe, air sometimes gets stuck in one place, warming up and sucking in more hot air from the atmosphere. But how does air get trapped in the first place?
That’s the result of high-pressure weather systems. This system forces air downwards and prevents it from rising. As we know, hot air is supposed to rise while cold air is supposed to sink. With this system, it traps warm air in place, preventing rain, while it just gets hotter and hotter till it finally breaks out of the system.
Worsening weather: El Niño
We’ve all learned about El Niño in school when we were kids, but how much do we even remember? To recap, El Niño is basically a weather pattern that occurs when surface temperatures of the Pacific Ocean become unusually warm, leading to changes in global weather patterns. In Southeast Asia, this means hotter temperatures and less precipitation towards the tail end of the year. The last El Niño we experienced was in 2016, giving us the hottest year on record globally. Experts say that with El Niño expected to arrive again later this year or in 2024, global average temperatures are bound to be pushed beyond the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold. That’s to say, it’s likely going to set a new global temperature record.
The Urban Heat Island Effect
For city dwellers, retreating to parks or rural areas can be a quick fix to escape the heat. That’s because cities tend to be between 1 - 3 degrees Celcius warmer in the day than in the countryside. The reasoning is simple — Urbanisation. With more people, buildings and infrastructure, more heat is produced and retained. For example, materials like asphalt and concrete surfaces used for roads and pavements absorb heat.
When we experience so much day-to-day heat, we turn up our air-conditioning to stay cool. Ironically, the use of air-conditioning increases outdoor temperatures even more as units release heat outdoors. This leads to a self-perpetuating cycle of heat that’s hard to escape from.
Climate change as a constant
Heatwaves are more frequent and intense these days because of climate change. No question about it. Couple that with the Urban Heat Island Effect and El Niño, and we’re reaching unprecedented temperatures.
The reality is, climate change is a man-made disaster that we’ve created for ourselves. The only way to alleviate it, is to take action to slow its process.
The heat can be harmful
The heat is not just an inconvenience — these solar spectrum rays can be harmful to our health. One of the risks is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays, which can cause sunburn and skin cancer. On top of that, near-infrared (IR) rays, which are responsible for heat, can also be harmful in excessive amounts. Prolonged exposure to IR rays can cause skin damage, dehydration, and heat exhaustion. Finally, when we’re at home, light streams in. This is known as visible light transmission, and it carries heat into our spaces too. These three always-on factors affect thermal comfort day-to-day, and get worse during a heatwave.
How can we stay chill?
According to the WHO, it’s recommended to stay indoors as much as possible during a heatwave, stay in the shade and avoid strenuous physical activity during hot hours of the day. Stay hydrated, take cool showers and wear light and loose materials made of natural materials like cotton.
The WHO also recommends that indoor temperatures should be kept below 32 degrees Celsius in the day, and 24 degrees celsius at night — especially for infants or the elderly with chronic health conditions.
Staying cool doesn’t have to be expensive
For those of us who are acutely aware of our every action and how it impacts our planet, the struggle is real. Staying cool means cranking up that air-conditioning but doing that contributes to UHI and climate change too. Now what?
As passionate advocates for wellness, sustainability and the environment, we at Gush have developed solar window films — Gush ClearCool. These thin films glide onto the inside of your windows like a screen protector would. Functionally, they work just like sunscreen for your windows. These films come in a variety of tints — from full transparency to high privacy. At its most transparent, it allows 76% of light in, ensuring your window view is as crystal clear as ever. All while blocking out 99% of harmful UV rays and 96% of IR rays — protecting your skin from the burn, your body from the heat, and your furniture from discoloration. It’s sunscreen, but better. With Gush ClearCool, staying indoors feels guilt-free with up to 14.45% reduction of cooling-related energy consumption.
Get nerdy with us — read all about the tests we’ve put Gush ClearCool through to achieve these astounding results. Or if you’re fascinated by how these thin films can achieve so much, learn more about the scientific technology that went into its inception.
Start your journey towards a cooler home – enquire about Gush ClearCool here.
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6. Limb, Lottie. “Is Climate Change Causing the Heatwave? Here’s the Simple Science behind Europe’s Worrying Weather | Euronews.” Euronews, 29 July 2022, https://www.euronews.com/green/2022/07/29/is-climate-change-causing-the-heatwave-heres-the-simple-science-behind-europes-scorching-w.
7. “Heatwaves: How to Stay Cool.” World Health Organization (WHO), https://www.who.int/news-room/questions-and-answers/item/heatwaves-how-to-stay-cool?gclid=CjwKCAjwl6OiBhA2EiwAuUwWZfZNx42Nfo9h5Afv75yz8EHknfWGLS_q8vIHceyvG-IB3Odq15q1JBoCVs8QAvD_BwE. Accessed 3 May 2023.