Beating the heat: Military training and operations in the era of global warming

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Beating the heat: Military training and operations in the era of global warming


Global climate change has resulted in an increase in the number and intensity of environmental heat waves, both in areas traditionally associated with hot temperatures and in areas where heat waves did not previously occur. For military communities around the world, these changes pose progressively increasing risks of heat-related illnesses and interference with training sessions. This is a significant and persistent “noncombat threat” to both training and operational activities of military personnel. In addition to these important health and safety concerns, there are broader implications in terms of the ability of worldwide security forces to effectively do their job (particularly in areas that historically already have high ambient temperatures). In the present review, we attempt to quantify the impact of climate change on various aspects of military training and performance. We also summarize ongoing research efforts designed to minimize and/or prevent heat injuries and illness. In terms of future approaches, we propose the need to “think outside the box” for a more effective training/schedule paradigm. One approach may be to investigate potential impacts of a reversal of sleep-wake cycles during basic training during the hot months of the year, to minimize the usual increase in heat-related injuries, and to enhance the capacity for physical training and combat performance. Regardless of which approaches are taken, a central feature of successful present and future interventions will be that they are rigorously tested using integrative physiological approaches.


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