Extreme Cold and Hot Weather

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Description or Situation

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Extreme temperature related weather conditions can have disastrous results if not prepared for appropriately

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overview

Both extreme cold and hot weather have the potential to be dangerous to species living on Earth. Especially the human species. Within our durable demeanor and ability to adapt resides fragility and the desire to seek out comfort. Humans tend to gravitate towards environments which are conducive for comfort and ease. Though there are some tribes and clans who live in regions of the planet which are less hospitable than others there are areas of the planet which can not support life without the use of artificial environments.  Modern day lives for many of us are supported by the luxury of having stores and markets near by. Reacting to unexpected temperature swings and conditions typically consists of running to the supply house for comfort food followed by a migration back to our air tempered dwelling where we can avoid the elements. Despite having those luxuries and desirable areas of the planet to live on we are all still subject to the changing of seasons. It is common for many inhabitants of Earth to experience variations in temperatures often reaching far above or below comfortable living. It is a characteristic of Earth that weather conditions fluctuate on a cycle which often presents periods in our lives when extreme cold or hot weather kills crops, livestock and even people. Worse case scenarios depict cyclic periods of ice ages and heat spells which have the potential to deteriorate life in the affected regions. Indications associated with historical and scientific data support claims that extreme temperatures will cycle again which can be detrimental to the existing and ever growing population of Earth. Especially for those unprepared. Live smarter, ... be prepared. Because the unexpected happens.

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A number of weather related scenarios can place human life at risk. Unexpected exposure to extreme weather conditions can result from failing habitats or shelters, transportation and a lack of preparation. It is a healthy mind set to entertain the potential that these protective devices and shelters can fail so plan accordingly. Assuming otherwise can cost lives. 

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What is extreme cold and hot weather?  

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"Extreme cold or hot weather" in this content makes reference and is applicable to a state of condition for weather which is not typically conducive or agreeable as a natural or healthy environment for humans. Extreme weather as such has a tendency to render an environment uninhabitable for people to live and prosper successfully. There are variable intricacies associated with surviving in such environments which can be attributed to biological diversities between humans effecting tolerances. Shelters have played a role in dampening the effects of extreme weather conditions but not enough to prevent migration of cultures to more inhabitable regions of the planet. Modern architecture and technology have have made it easier for humans to work and live where previously not possible due to exposure to the elements. For the most part many humans do not posses the desire to reside in regions of extreme weather.  Areas as defined are subject to agricultural failures, difficulties for logistics and it just doesn't feel good most of the time. Those who choose to live in harsh conditions are very often considered extreme survivalists who at best are subject to lives without comfort or luxuries as we know it. Some are content with such lives, ... which can be noting less than grueling for the rest of us. Most every region of Earth is subjected to cycles of temperature swings which can offer some areas of the planet as habitable for humans on a seasonal schedule but not so much on a permanent basis. For the most part humans typically make preparations prior to being exposed to extreme weather conditions. Our exposure to extreme cold and hot weather is typically brief due to our physiological limitations. We tend to traverse from shelter to shelter and wear the appropriate clothing when exposing ourselves to extreme and dangerous weather. What happens when we are caught off guard and unprepared for extreme conditions. A moment in time when unpredictable conditions arise. What happens if our technology and architecture fails as a result of extreme conditions? What happens if we don't have a plan? Is it possible to perish as a result?

YES!!!

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The Earth is constantly in a state of flux with changes occurring daily. Indications associated with weather patterns and geological events depict that the earth has a longer cycle of life changes which effect human habitation dramatically. The Earth goes through periods of climate changes that are cyclic and inevitable. Many enthusiasts of climatology do not believe these changes are subtle but rapid enough to be called a disaster when they occur. Can we adapt or is there a limit to our adaptation and existence?

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Freezing conditions

Nearly 50 percent of the Northern Hemisphere's total landmass can be classified as a cold region at some point in the year [source: Discovery Channel]. Ocean currents, elevation and wind all have an impact on how frigid it gets. Within these regions there are two sub-classifications -- wet cold weather and dry cold weather. Wet cold describes conditions where the average temperature over a 24-hour period is 50 degrees Fahrenheit. This typically means that there are freezing conditions at night followed by thawing temperatures the following day. Dry cold means that the average daily temperature is below 14 degrees. In dry cold conditions, there is no thaw.

­T­he other thing that's factored in with c­old weather is wind chill -- the effect of moving air on exposed skin. Antarctic explorer Paul Siple coined the term "wind chill factor" in the late 1930s to help describe the effect that wind has on heat loss. He experimented by timing how long it took to freeze water in varying degrees of wind strength [source: USA Today]. In layman's terms, wind chill is described as how cold it "feels."

­Cold weather has a dramatic effect on human health. According to a University of California, Berkeley economist, deaths related to cold reduce the average life expectancy of Americans by a decade, if not more [source: UC Berkeley News]. Cold weather also indirectly causes fatalities through accidents due to snow and ice, carbon monoxide poisoning and house fires. The elderly and the infirm are most susceptible to cold weather illness and injury, although the same UC Berkeley study reports that women make up two-thirds of the deaths after a cold spell. [Source]

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Extreme heat

Heat kills by pushing the human body beyond its limits. In extreme heat and high humidity, evaporation is slowed and the body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature.

Most heat disorders occur because the victim has been overexposed to heat or has over-exercised for his or her age and physical condition. Older adults, young children and those who are sick or overweight are more likely to succumb to extreme heat.

Conditions that can induce heat-related illnesses include stagnant atmospheric conditions and poor air quality. Consequently, people living in urban areas may be at greater risk from the effects of a prolonged heat wave than those living in rural areas. Also, asphalt and concrete store heat longer and gradually release heat at night, which can produce higher nighttime temperatures known as the "urban heat island effect."

A heat wave is an extended period of extreme heat, and is often accompanied by high humidity. These conditions can be dangerous and even life-threatening for humans who don't take the proper precautions. [Source]

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What are the effects of extreme cold and hot weather?

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For human beings

Tolerance levels for human beings can be stretched and encouraged for adapting to harsh environments. Some environments are less hospitable than others yet people seem to find ways to survive in those harsh conditions which has typically been achieved over long periods of acclimation and perhaps generations of time. Even so the human body is still subject to the effects associated with extreme cold and hot environmental conditions. Biological effects associated with extreme cold temperatures are that which can be referred to as "Hypothermia". Effects from the heat are referred to as "Hyperthermia".

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"Too Cold" / Hypothermia

Defined as a body core temperature below 35.0 °C (95.0 °F). Symptoms depend on the temperature. In mild hypothermia there is shivering and mental confusion. In moderate hypothermia shivering stops and confusion increases. In severe hypothermia there may be paradoxical undressing, where a person removes their clothing, as well as an increased risk of the heart stopping. Hypothermia has two main types of causes. It classically occurs from extreme exposure to cold.  It may also occur from any condition that decreases heat production or increases heat loss. Commonly this includes alcohol intoxication but may also include low blood sugar, anorexia, and advanced age among others. At very cold temperatures, the most serious concern is the risk of hypothermia or dangerous over cooling of the body. Another serious effect of cold exposure is frostbite or freezing of the exposed extremities such as fingers, toes, nose and ear lobes. Hypothermia could be fatal in absence of immediate medical attention. Hypothermia may be diagnosed based on either a person's symptoms in the presence of risk factors or by measuring a person's core temperature.

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Classifications of hypothermia

Chilblains  »  Superficial ulcers of the skin that occur when a predisposed individual is repeatedly exposed to cold.

Frostbite  »   The freezing and destruction of tissue.

Frost-nip  »  A superficial cooling of tissues without cellular destruction.

Trench foot  » Or immersion foot, caused by repetitive exposure to water at non-freezing temperatures.

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  The Swiss staging system, divides hypothermia based on the presenting symptoms which is preferred when it is not possible to determine an accurate core temperature.

table 1.

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Signs and symptoms of hypothermia

Signs and symptoms vary depending on the degree of hypothermia, and may be divided by stages of severity.

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An early stage of hyperthermia can be "heat exhaustion" (or "heat prostration" or "heat stress"), whose symptoms include heavy sweating, rapid breathing and a fast, weak pulse. If the condition progresses to heat stroke, then hot, dry, skin is typical as blood vessels dilate in an attempt to increase heat loss. An inability to cool the body through perspiration may cause the skin to feel dry.

Other signs and symptoms vary. Accompanying dehydration can produce nausea, vomiting, headaches, and low blood pressure and the latter can lead to fainting or dizziness, especially if the standing position is assumed quickly.

In severe heat stroke, there may be confused, hostile, or seemingly intoxicated behavior. Heart rate and respiration rate will increase (tachycardia and tachypnea) as blood pressure drops and the heart attempts to maintain adequate circulation. The decrease in blood pressure can then cause blood vessels to contract reflexively, resulting in a pale or bluish skin color in advanced cases. Young children, in particular, may have seizures. Eventually, organ failure, unconsciousness and death will result.   [Source]

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  Stages of hypothermia 

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Mild

Symptoms of mild hypothermia may be vague, with sympathetic nervous system excitation.....(shivering,.....hypertension,......tachycardia,......tachypnea,......and vasoconstriction). These are all physiological responses to preserve heat.  Cold diuresis, mental confusion, and hepatic dysfunction may also be present.  Hyperglycemia may be present, as glucose consumption by cells and insulin secretion both decrease, and tissue sensitivity to insulin may be blunted.  Sympathetic activation also releases glucose from the liver. In many cases, however, especially in alcoholic patients, hypoglycemia appears to be a more common presentation.  Hypoglycemia is also found in many hypothermic patients, because hypothermia may be a result of hypoglycemia.

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Moderate

Low body temperature results in shivering becoming more violent. Muscle mis-coordination becomes apparent.  Movements are slow and labored, accompanied by a stumbling pace and mild confusion, although the person may appear alert. Surface blood vessels contract further as the body focuses its remaining resources on keeping the vital organs warm. The subject becomes pale. Lips, ears, fingers, and toes may become blue.

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Severe

As the temperature decreases, further physiological systems falter and heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure all decrease. This results in an expected heart rate in the 30s at a temperature of 28 °C (82 °F). Difficulty speaking, sluggish thinking, and amnesia start to appear; inability to use hands and stumbling are also usually present. Cellular metabolic processes shut down. Below 30 °C (86 °F), the exposed skin becomes blue and puffy, muscle coordination very poor, and walking almost impossible, and the person exhibits incoherent/irrational behavior, including terminal burrowing (see below) or even stupor. Pulse and respiration rates decrease significantly, but fast heart rates (ventricular tachycardia, atrial fibrillation) can also occur. Atrial fibrillation is not typically a concern in and of itself.  Major organs fail. Clinical death occurs.

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Paradoxical undressing

Twenty to fifty percent of hypothermia deaths are associated with paradoxical undressing. This typically occurs during moderate to severe hypothermia, as the person becomes disoriented, confused, and combative. They may begin discarding their clothing, which, in turn, increases the rate of heat loss.  Rescuers who are trained in mountain survival techniques are taught to expect this; however, some may assume incorrectly that urban victims of hypothermia have been subjected to a sexual assault.  One explanation for the effect is a cold-induced malfunction of the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates body temperature. Another explanation is that the muscles contracting peripheral blood vessels become exhausted (known as a loss of vasomotor tone) and relax, leading to a sudden surge of blood (and heat) to the extremities, fooling the person into feeling overheated.

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Terminal burrowing

An apparent self-protective behavior known as terminal burrowing, or hide-and-die syndrome, occurs in the final stages of hypothermia. The afflicted will enter small, enclosed spaces, such as underneath beds or behind wardrobes. It is often associated with paradoxical undressing.  Researchers in Germany claim this is obviously an autonomous process of the brain stem, which is triggered in the final state of hypothermia and produces a primitive and burrowing-like behavior of protection, as seen in hibernating animals.  This happens mostly in cases where temperature drops slowly.

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"Too hot" / Hyperthermia

Elevated body temperature due to failed thermoregulation that occurs when a body produces or absorbs more heat than it dissipates. Extreme temperature elevation then become a medical emergency requiring immediate treatment to prevent disability or death. The most common causes include heat stroke and adverse reactions to drugs. The former is an acute temperature elevation caused by exposure to excessive heat, or combination of heat and humidity, that overwhelms the heat-regulating mechanisms. The latter is a relatively rare side effect of many drugs, particularly those that affect the central nervous system. Malignant hyperthermia is a rare complication of some types of general anesthesia. Hyperthermia differs from fever in that the body's temperature set point remains unchanged.

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Classification

In humans, hyperthermia is defined as a temperature greater than 37.5–38.3 °C (99.5–100.9 °F), depending on the reference used, that occurs without a change in the body's temperature set point. The normal human body temperature can be as high as 37.7 °C (99.9 °F) in the late afternoon. Hyperthermia requires an elevation from the temperature that would otherwise be expected. Such elevations range from mild to extreme; body temperatures above 40 °C (104 °F) can be life-threatening.

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Table 2

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Signs and symptoms

An early stage of hyperthermia can be "heat exhaustion" (or "heat prostration" or "heat stress"), whose symptoms include heavy sweating, rapid breathing and a fast, weak pulse. If the condition progresses to heat stroke, then hot, dry, skin is typical as blood vessels dilate in an attempt to increase heat loss. An inability to cool the body through perspiration may cause the skin to feel dry. Other signs and symptoms vary. Accompanying dehydration can produce nausea, vomiting, headaches, and low blood pressure and the latter can lead to fainting or dizziness, especially if the standing position is assumed quickly. In severe heat stroke, there may be confused, hostile, or seemingly intoxicated behavior. Heart rate and respiration rate will increase (tachycardia and tachypnea) as blood pressure drops and the heart attempts to maintain adequate circulation. The decrease in blood pressure can then cause blood vessels to contract reflexively, resulting in a pale or bluish skin color in advanced cases. Young children, in particular, may have seizures. Eventually, organ failure, unconsciousness and death will result. [Source]

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Additional descriptions for concern of extreme temperature conditions are provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

(Because extreme temperatures and children don't mix)

AAP.

Extreme Temperatures and children

Heat and cold stress are environmental hazards. Because of their unique physiology, children are more susceptible to temperature extremes and their health effects. Children are less able to regulate their body temperature compared with adults. As a result, children are more likely to develop significant health effects when they are exposed to environmental temperature extremes. These extremes result from natural or man made causes. Natural causes include heat waves, unseasonably cold weather, and winter storms. Man made events can result from inadequate home heating or cooling, extended exposure to temperature extremes without proper gear, and overheated indoor environments, such as automobiles. Read more: [Source].

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Pets and farm animals

Extreme weather temperatures have a direct impact on animal behavior and food production associated with farm animals. In exceedingly cold and hot temperatures most agricultural animals, ... which humans rely upon for various degrees of sustenance and survival, ... have a tendency to become lazy often refraining from eating and reproducing. Temperature, humidity and the amount of direct sunlight are the primary factors that determine an animal’s body temperature. However, other factors — such as precipitation, wind, amount of night cooling and exposure to fescue endophyte— are important.

Precipitation can cause problems because high humidity reduces the ability of animals to use evaporation to dissipate heat. Evaporative cooling occurs when sweat or moisture evaporates from the respiratory tract or skin. Evaporation is the primary means by which many farm animals cool themselves at temperatures higher than 70° F. The effects of wind and nighttime temperatures are also important. If winds are calm or if animals congregate behind a windbreak, their ability to be cooled is reduced. Night temperatures that remain above 70° F increase the danger of heat stress because of little or no night cooling.

The capacity of an animal to produce differs between species, breeds and strains as a result of genetic factors. However, a complex of inter-related factors in the animal husbandry will influence the animal's ability to utilize that capacity for growth, development and production. Progress in breeding and feeding for further increase in production and efficiency can be limited by environmental factors. Research into these factors has therefore been increasing in recent years, especially in countries having intensive temperature swings.

Relative information:  [1] , [2] , [3] , [4].

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Agricultural impacts

Climate change and agriculture are interrelated processes, both of which take place on a global scale. Climate change affects agriculture in a number of ways, including through changes in average temperatures, rainfall, and climate extremes (e.g., heat waves); changes in pests and diseases; changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide and ground-level ozone concentrations; changes in the nutritional quality of some foods; and changes in sea level.

Climate change is already affecting agriculture, with effects unevenly distributed across the world. Future climate change will likely negatively affect crop production in low latitude countries, while effects in northern latitudes may be positive or negative. Climate change will probably increase the risk of food insecurity for some vulnerable groups, such as the poor[Source]

 

Psychological effects

Climate change affects the psychological well being of a person indirectly, and can be some of the most devastating effects in terms of human suffering, and the most difficult to address and quantify.  The severity of mental health and the implications following an extreme weather disaster depends on the degree to which there is sufficient coping and support during and after the event.  Extreme weather and other climate related events can have a variety of psychological impacts on communities and individuals, from acute traumatic stress to chronic mental disorders, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep difficulties, social avoidance, irritability, and drug or alcohol abuse. Chronic mental disorders can also lead to additional negative health effects.  Also see "Cabin fever". [Source]

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Extreme temperatures around the world

5 Animals That Can Take the Extreme Heat—and Cold

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Additional aspects of extreme temperatures which can discourage habitation in susceptible regions

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Living in areas susceptible to extreme weather and temperatures requires a degree of understanding for the environment of choice. People who are acclimated to utilizing various technologies, machinery and devices can benefit from knowing the effects of what extreme conditions have on those comforts associated with modern day living. Water freezes, oils change in how they react to vicious temperature swings, bearing seize, electronics fail etc.  Read on about this stuff:  [More info]

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  Find  "solutions to extreme cold and hot weather"  

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References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypothermia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperthermia

https://ucanr.edu/repositoryfiles/ca806p8-67043.pdf

http://pubs.aic.ca/doi/pdf/10.4141/cjas58-002

http://beefmagazine.com/health/0701-herd-health-heat

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_change_and_agriculture

http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/programs/geh/climatechange/health_impacts/mental_health/index.cfm

https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Children-and-Disasters/Pages/Extreme-Temperatures-Heat-and-Cold.aspx

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_weather_records#Temperature

http://icyroadsafety.com/

http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/phys_agents/hot_cold.html

http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/brochures/heat_wave.shtml

 

P2S