Our bodies couldn’t endure the summer heat without sweating. But as the climate gets hotter, sweat isn’t cooling us off like it used to.
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This summer, NPR’s Science Desk has been looking into the science of sweat. As the planet gets hotter, it turns out perspiration isn’t what it used to be. And even though we’ve gotten used to checking the outdoor temperature or even humidity, there could be another measurement to pay close attention to. In the final installment of this sweat series, climate reporter Lauren Sommer has this look at what the future may hold for the human body’s ability to cool down effectively.
LAUREN SOMMER, BYLINE: You know the feeling. It’s humid, muggy.
KRISHNA ACHUTARAO: It’s extremely uncomfortable.
SOMMER: Krishna AchutaRao is a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. In March, temperatures started spiking in northern India, and it stayed relentlessly hot for two months.
ACHUTARAO: If you’re outdoors, if you have to work, these things are quite dangerous.
SOMMER: And the danger wasn’t just the heat; it was the humidity – because that makes it tougher for our sweat to do its job. Larry Kenney is a professor of physiology.
LARRY KENNEY: Only sweat that evaporates has any ability to cool the body.
SOMMER: At his lab at Penn State University, he studies how our bodies deal with humidity by putting test subjects into …