Increased extreme humid heat hazard faced by agricultural workers

Connor D. Diaz, Mingfang Ting, Radley Horton, Deepti Singh, Cassandra D.W. Rogers, Ethan Coffel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Increases in population exposure to humid heat extremes in agriculturally-dependent areas of the world highlights the importance of understanding how the location and timing of humid heat extremes intersects with labor-intensive agricultural activities. Agricultural workers are acutely vulnerable to heat-related health and productivity impacts as a result of the outdoor and physical nature of their work and by compounding socio-economic factors. Here, we identify the regions, crops, and seasons when agricultural workers experience the highest hazard from extreme humid heat. Using daily maximum wet-bulb temperature data, and region-specific agricultural calendars and cropland area for 12 crops, we quantify the number of extreme humid heat days during the planting and harvesting seasons for each crop between 1979-2019. We find that rice, an extremely labor-intensive crop, and maize croplands experienced the greatest exposure to dangerous humid heat (integrating cropland area exposed to >27 °C wet-bulb temperatures), with 2001-2019 mean rice and maize cropland exposure increasing 1.8 and 1.9 times the 1979-2000 mean exposure, respectively. Crops in socio-economically vulnerable regions, including Southeast Asia, equatorial South America, the Indo-Gangetic Basin, coastal Mexico, and the northern coast of the Gulf of Guinea, experience the most frequent exposure to these extremes, in certain areas exceeding 60 extreme humid heat days per year when crops are being cultivated. They also experience higher trends relative to other world regions, with certain areas exceeding a 15 day per decade increase in extreme humid heat days. Our crop and location-specific analysis of extreme humid heat hazards during labor-intensive agricultural seasons can inform the design of policies and efforts to reduce the adverse health and productivity impacts on this vulnerable population that is crucial to the global food system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number115013
JournalEnvironmental Research Communications
Issue number115
StatePublished - Nov 1 2023


  • agricultural workers
  • climate variability
  • crop impacts
  • food system
  • heat stress
  • humid heat
  • potential worker exposure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • General Environmental Science
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Geology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science


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