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WIREs Clim Change
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Heat, health, and humidity in Australia's monsoon tropics: a critical review of the problematization of ‘heat’ in a changing climate

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Exposure to heat has killed more people in Australia than all other natural hazards combined. As the climate warms, temperatures are projected to rise substantially, increasing the impact of heat stress and heat illness nation‐wide. The relation between heat and health is profoundly complex, however, and is understood differently across multiple sectors. This paper thus provides a critical review of how heat is currently measured and managed in Australia, highlighting how humidity, exposure, and exertion are key elements that are not consistently incorporated into ‘problematizations’ of heat. The presence or absence of these elements produces different spatial and temporal geographies of danger, as well as different governance practices. In particular, the invisibility of humidity as having a significant impact on heat and health shapes whether Australia's tropical monsoon zone is visible as a region at risk or not, and whether prolonged periods of seasonal heat are treated as dangerous. Similarly, different populations and practices become visible depending on whether the human body (its exposure, exertion, cooling, and hydration) is included in accounts of what constitutes ‘heat.’ As a result, the outdoor, manual workforce is visible as a population at risk in some accounts but not others. A brief review of key policy areas including housing, public health and work health and safety is presented to demonstrate how specific problematizations of heat are critical to the identification of, and response to, current and future climatic conditions. This has implications for how populations, places, and practices are constituted in the region. WIREs Clim Change 2017, 8:e468. doi: 10.1002/wcc.468

‘Average annual occurrence of Three Day Periods (TDPs) with EHF above the severity threshold EHF85 in the period 1958–2011. Values are expressed in the form of TDPs per year.’ (Reprinted with permission from Ref . Copyright 2015 Open access article distributed under the Creative Creative Commons Attribution License)
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Mean monthly maximal wet‐bulb globe temperature for Australia (Climate Research Unit data 1980–2010), produced by ClimateCHIP.org through Hothaps‐Soft tool.
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How the number of days above an extreme wet‐bulb temperature changed by the 2060s. (Reprinted with permission from Ref . Copyright 2016. Figure 3D, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)
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Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) climate zone map.
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Australian climate zones based on temperature and humidity. Reproduced by permission of Bureau of Meteorology, © 2017 Commonwealth of Australia.
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Example of daily ambient temperature mapping. This map shows maximum temperature (°C) recorded on January 11, 2017. Reproduced by permission of Bureau of Meteorology, © 2017 Commonwealth of Australia.
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‘Average annual number of Three Day Periods with positive EHF in the period 1958–2011.’ (Reprinted with permission from Ref . Copyright 2015 Open access article distributed under the Creative Creative Commons Attribution License)
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Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change > A Values-Based Approach to Vulnerability and Adaptation
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Perceptions, Behavior, and Communication of Climate Change > Behavior Change and Responses

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