What Is Wet Bulb Globe Temperature and Why Is It Measured?

When preparing to go outside for work or play, most people check the temperature. Why? Because the weather and temperature dictate so many of our daily choices. It affects whether or not we bring an umbrella or how many layers we need to stay warm or cool. 

A simple check for the temperature alone is not enough. Humidity also makes an enormous impact. But wet bulb globe temperature is so much more than that.

Read on to learn how much more and available ways to incorporate wet bulb globe temperature into your sports safety protocols.


Exhausted shipping worker

What is wet bulb globe temperature?

Wet-bulb globe temperature is the measurement of five weather factors. This temperature measuring device uses three unique parts to measure five temperature factors: the temperature in direct sun, humidity, sun angle, wind speed, and cloud cover. Each of these factors plays a crucial role in determining the actual effect the temperature will have on those outside. 


How does it compare to the heat index?

Each of us has experienced checking the temperature or the heat index, dressing accordingly, and going outside, only to discover we are not dressed properly. As a result, the weather feels colder or hotter than the forecast said. We needed more information to give us an accurate picture of the actual daily temperature. 

The heat index measures how the heat feels in the shade, with a light wind and moderate humidity. Unfortunately, as we have personally experienced, it often does not tell the complete picture. 

If we separate or remove one of these five factors from the wet bulb globe temperature system, we would notice the difference and not be adequately prepared. Having the correct humidity level, factoring wind, shade from clouds, location of the sun in the sky, and the temperature in direct sun, helps us provide a much more thorough understanding of the weather. 


Exhausted athletes

Why is the wet bulb globe temperature measuring factor important for temperature forecast? 

Knowing the wet bulb globe temperature forecast prepares athletes to spend time outside safely and optimize their performance. When individuals are engaged in training, practice, or a game, they need to know and prepare for the heat’s effect on them that day.  If an employer has not trained their employees properly according to the WBGT rating for that day, they are more susceptible to heatstroke or even hypothermia. 

While small devices are helpful, having climatologists and meteorologists look at thousands of data points can help you plan for weather systems that will impact your athletes, training, and games. We thrive on supplying you with the information you need to equip your team to perform at its best.


The effect of wet bulb globe temperature readings on activities

If you organize an outdoor sporting event or an outside day of physical labor for your employees, regular wet bulb globe temperature updates for your location are paramount for success. 

The Kory Stringer Institute lists multiple studies of heat exhaustion and exertional heat stroke on athletes. Before WBGT was implemented for school sports activities, totally preventable serious heat stress illnesses and death were observed when high heat and humidity levels were not calculated with the WBGT guidelines. In schools where staff put WBGT guidelines in place, heat illnesses have been drastically reduced.

Some associations have purchased their own devices to monitor WBGT, but ensuring the device is properly functioning and maintained is not always easy. More than a device is needed. Having someone analyze and keep up with real-time data takes the guesswork off your shoulders, enabling you to continue focusing on the players and the game. 


How WBGT affects sports

The 2021 Olympics in Tokyo is a perfect example of what can happen when athletes are pushed to practice and perform in intense environmental situations. Unfortunately, Tokyo’s suffocating heat played havoc with the athletes.  The thermometers at the games showed 40 degrees Celcius, the humidity was 60%, and most days had full sun.  

This caused many athletes to suffer severe heatstroke.  Some were not even able to continue competing. In addition, the staff at the events also suffered heatstroke.  

If they had been using the WBGT, they would have been able to prepare appropriately and move events to more appropriate times to avoid such situations. As global warming continues to impact the planet, the use of WBGT measuring will take on a more significant role in how people plan their time and activities outside.


Football equipment on field

Sports equipment adding to the heat 

When performing physical activities outside, we would do well to keep in mind that athletes, whether they are practicing or competing, have various forms of equipment they need to wear or carry. Unfortunately, this equipment also adds to the heat stress the body is enduring.

In addition, wearing layers of clothing or plastic protection from helmets or padding can increase the body temperature. For others managing crews working outside, it means making sure the exertion and layers of work equipment are within reasonable healthy limits in relation to the WBGT to reduce work-related illness.

Some tests done on players found they had body temperature readings of 103 or 104 degrees. That is the same as, or higher than, running a high fever for an extended period. This abnormal high temperature is dangerous and leads to various stages of hyperthermia. 

These added layers of padding and equipment create even more significant difficulties in supporting the body’s ability to sweat and cool down. The extra layers of protective equipment also increase the impact of the daily temperature and resulting dehydration. When the body is already at a high temperature, it is set up for failure with extreme weather. 

However, if your staff and team monitor real-time WBGT, you create a healthy and thriving environment for your players. Ensuring they can continue playing and return home safely is the gold standard of all sports clubs. 


How wet bulb globe temperature helps athletes and outside workers deal with climate change 

As climate change affects our planet and temperatures rise, new areas need to adapt to hotter and more humid temperatures. The summer of 2021 saw new record temperatures in western Canada, Europe, and other locations. These intense and prolonged heat-waves were unprecedented. As a result, individuals and athletes in these areas struggled to keep cool and maintain their previous training schedules. 

When areas with moderate climates experience extremes, it creates extra pressure on coaches and training staff to recognize their athletes’ new physical limits. Unfortunately, the traditional “tough it out!” philosophy doesn’t apply to these new environmental extremes. 

The key to finding the balance between helping athletes reach their peak performance and ensuring they are not in danger of heat exhaustion lies with WBGT guidelines set out by the NCAA or other athletic governing bodies. Creating and adapting training sessions based on the WBGT guidelines will help your athletes perform and progress despite the extreme weather.

While athletes can acclimatize to the range of climates near their region, it proves more challenging for coaching staff and players to adapt to when traveling. This challenge is especially true if their home turf climate is more moderate, dryer, and cooler. Hotter and more humid climates can prove challenging. 

When traveling for competitions that include experiencing new temperatures and environments, having professional weather support to assist your team will give your team a clear advantage. 

DTN Weather Sentry Sport Edition provides you with the accurate information you need to lead your athletes to the winners’ circle. Athletic directors and trainers have fully customized accurate weather reports analyzed by our meteorologists and climatologists up to 15 days in advance. More importantly, AD’s and AT’s can receive customized alerts right to their mobile device to alert them when dangerous WBGT is imminent at their specific location.

Allow DTN WeatherSentry to provide you with accurate readings for the health and safety of your athletes as the weather continues to change around them. Let us show you how to provide you with the data you need to succeed while training and at the game.