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Chalula88
05-22-2013, 10:28 PM
I am in the early stages of planning my next novel. It involves people living in extreme heat (there are no seasons). This is a permanent living situation for most of them, but one character comes from a much cooler climate. They sleep in canvas tents on wood platforms and there is some degree of starvation.

I am interested in any information anyone has on what the physical effects would be of living in this situation, but in particular:

What would be a realistic level of heat (90 degrees? 100? 110?) for the characters to still survive, despite very limited food, but plenty of water?

Do you adjust to a climate that is always hot or do you always feel the heat? If you can adjust, how long does it take? (none of them were born into an environment this hot)

Would you always be at risk for heat exhaustion, sun stroke, etc.? Even after several years in the climate?

Does your skin adjust to the heat and sun exposure? What about the bottoms of your feet - could you ever go barefoot? Would you always get sunburns? What if you were light skinned?

Since I am in the early stages of planning, I don't really care what the answers are to these questions, I just want to make this element believable.

Any other information is also appreciated.

Thanks!

King Neptune
05-22-2013, 10:50 PM
While many people are uncomfortable in any temperature over 70, people can readily become accustomed to living in temperatures up to 120, but part of be coming accustomed is learning to drink adequate water and staying out of direct sunlight. The danger of sunstroke would never end.

You might want to read about how people in Equitorial regions live, especially interesting would be the Dinka along the Nile in South Sudan and maybe Somaliland. Neither region is on the Equator, but they are especially hot. The inka are tall, thin, and blue-black (the blue reflects ultraviolet). People in such regions are not light skinned, and light skinned people who go there get darker.
The Dinka wore little or no clothing until fairly recently, and I don't think that they wore anything on their feet. The people of Ethiopia and Eritrea traditionally have worn clothing like Arab cloaks. One way toward safety in such regions is avoiding the rays of the Sun, and insulation works both ways. Igt may seem absurd to be heavily clothed in such an area, but it is better than being nude for pal people.

melindamusil
05-22-2013, 11:00 PM
Several different thoughts...

First, I recently read this straight dope article about Eskimos. It's kind of the opposite of your issue but might give you some ideas.
http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/83/why-do-eskimo-people-stay-there
Basically, they've evolved to live in the extreme cold, so much so that it's pretty difficult for them to move to another climate.

Also you might want to research desert people groups.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bedouin
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuareg_people



What would be a realistic level of heat (90 degrees? 100? 110?) for the characters to still survive, despite very limited food, but plenty of water?

This I do not know. Depends a little bit on the rest of your story... if they have plenty of water, I would probably buy 100 degrees (Fahrenheit), perhaps 110 on exceptionally hot days. But that's entirely my opinion.



Do you adjust to a climate that is always hot or do you always feel the heat? If you can adjust, how long does it take? (none of them were born into an environment this hot)

I think you'd always feel the heat to some extent, but you would get used to it being hot and maybe you wouldn't be affected so much. Like around here, when the seasons change - after a few weeks it's not such a big deal.



Would you always be at risk for heat exhaustion, sun stroke, etc.? Even after several years in the climate?

Heat exhaustion and sunstroke are an element of hydration as much heat/sunlight. Even if you are in a temperate climate, if you don't stay hydrated, you can get heat exhaustion. On the other hand even if it's a really warm climate, if you stay hydrated, you can work very hard for a very long time.



Does your skin adjust to the heat and sun exposure? What about the bottoms of your feet - could you ever go barefoot? Would you always get sunburns? What if you were light skinned?

The amount of melanin in your skin (skin color) is evolved to match the amount of sun exposure. African people have very dark skin because they have a LOT of sun exposure. Yes, it's possible for them to get a tan or sunburn, but less likely because their skin is naturally dark.

Conversely, people from (for example) Sweden or Norway have very fair skin because they get very little sun exposure. This has the added benefit of maximizing Vitamin D production.

As far as the bottom of your feet - unless you spent a lot of time with your feet in the air, that wouldn't be a sunburn - just a burn. It's happened to me when I've gone outside barefoot and the concrete is too warm.

I'm not a doctor, but I can't imagine they would ever NOT get sunburns. Unless they've lived there for a very long time (several generations) and they've evolved some sort of protection, their skin will react the same way.

Now, the one caveat I would throw in: I presume this is some sort of science fiction/fantasy. So you could certainly add some mysterious medicine or something fantasyish to change all that.

ironmikezero
05-22-2013, 11:39 PM
Don't forget the impact of relative humidity in your imagined environment - you mentioned plenty of water.

Areas of high heat and high humidity can be extremely uncomfortable. Swamps and deserts are at opposite ends of the humidity index yet can have virtually identical ambient air temperatures.

How do you want your misery served? Baked and cracked, or swimming in sweat?

Chalula88
05-22-2013, 11:46 PM
Thanks so much for the replies! I will definitely do more research into the groups of people mentioned.

The water is tanked and shipped in, not an open body of water. So it is very dry, but they are not horribly dehydrated.

Thanks again!

Cyia
05-23-2013, 12:06 AM
When it's hot, you're not as hungry until you get to the literal point of starvation.

I live in North Texas, home of the 115 degree summers. The humidity makes it miserable. You don't want to move. And YES, you most definitely feel the heat, even after days and weeks of it. Ground surfaces heat up (even melt), and direct air on skin feels like someone holding a lightbulb next to you. The real difference is how you react to *changing* temperature.

Going into the shade feels nice, but going from 115 to a house where the thermostat is in the 70's (or, if you visit my aunt, the 60's) you'll feel like you've got fever chills. NOT FUN.

Siri Kirpal
05-23-2013, 02:19 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

I spoke with a man who spent part of a war in a tank in the desert. When he got home, he had to wear a coat in 70 degree weather. His parents thought he was nuts, but he'd adapted to the heat.

People burn more calories in cold weather than in hot weather, so low food levels would be more sustainable in hot climes than cold ones.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

benbenberi
05-23-2013, 03:54 AM
When I was in graduate school in Iowa, one year a new student joined us from Burkina Faso. He started wearing a parka in September when the temperature dropped below 75. We had to break it to him gently that it would be getting much, much colder in a few months...

Cyia
05-23-2013, 05:00 AM
When I was in graduate school in Iowa, one year a new student joined us from Burkina Faso. He started wearing a parka in September when the temperature dropped below 75. We had to break it to him gently that it would be getting much, much colder in a few months...


Same thing happens in fall when new university terms start up north. You can pick out those from the Southwestern US, Mexico and Central America by how many layers they're wearing.

Maryn
05-23-2013, 05:41 AM
FWIW, when I lived in southern Arizona and went barefoot whenever I could, my feet got good and callused. I could walk on black asphalt barefoot on a Tucson summer afternoon. So if your people are always barefoot and spend time walking, the soles of their feet will become hard, the calluses so thick they insulate the living tissue from heat.

When we moved to a place with winters, it took about a year to acclimatize fully. At a temperature at which I'd have worn a flannel shirt or a sweater, topped with a jacket in Arizona, here I might be okay with a long-sleeved T-shirt and throw a sweater or jacket in the car for in case.

Maryn, who locked herself outside in jeans and a cotton sweater in 35 degrees for about three hours, no problem (just keep moving)

jkenton
05-23-2013, 09:00 AM
Don't forget salt. It helps the body retain water, and you lose it like crazy when you sweat. Salt keeps your neurons firing, among other things... So they'll need access to a steady supply of salt.

For sunny/dry climates, if memory serves, the heavy robes favored by tribes like the Bedouin don't just protect from sunburn, but also help the body retain moisture. Take your shirt off, the evaporating sweat makes you feel cooler, but you dehydrate much, much faster. (That's one I can personally attest to. Had an extended vacation long ago in a hot, dry place where things went "boom." And learned to keep your sleeves rolled down and your DCU jacket buttoned unless you were working in a place where you had pallets of water sitting handy.)

books2thesky
05-23-2013, 10:20 AM
Average summer temperature in New Delhi is 32 C (90 F) and it often gets up to 45 C (114 F), and there's an entire city full of people living there, so while that level of heat is on the extreme end and very uncomfortable*, it's not beyond the bounds of human tolerance.

*the heat is a big reason why, in Bollywood movies, rain is a sign of celebration...

Re: adjusting to a hotter climate, it definitely happens. I grew up in a coldish mountain city, and I would be absolutely miserable from how much I hated the heat whenever we visited the hotter lowlands. Nowadays I live in the lowlands and have adjusted to the temperatures. Unfortunately I can't give you a timeline as to how fast someone would adjust if they were just forced to bear the heat 24/7, since my adjustment involved the use of airconditioning which your characters don't have access to, but the end result is that I can handle the temperatures without airconditioning if I need to.

boron
05-25-2013, 12:25 PM
A healthy, well nourished adult in a moderate climate can survive for more than 30 days with water and without food...in a hot climate less, but probably at least two weeks...

In tropics, a moderately active person may need about 5 liters water per day, and a physical worker 10 liters per shift or as much as 20 liters per day.

Breastfed infants do not need any additional water, not even in a hot climate.

In a hot climate, people would need to consume 6-12 grams salt per day. Drinking several liters water per day without eating (and therefore without salt) could lead to water intoxication (hyponatremia) and death in few days. Salt can be added to water, like in sport drinks.

Amount of water and salt needed may vary 2-3 times from person to person and depends on the person's sweating rate.

"Some degree of starvation" could...in few months...result in mineral and vitamin deficiencies, firstly probably a potassium deficiency (weakness, muscle cramps) and vitamin B1 deficiency (tingling, burning feet..).

Source:
http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/nutrientsindw.pdf
(a long document, you can search through it by keywords: water, salt, etc.)