News - Extreme Heat

A massive heat dome is moving eastward across the United States, endangering human health with an extended stretch of high temperatures. In this news tip, Ashley Ward (director of the Heat Policy Innovation Hub) offers commentary and tips for staying safe.

Ashley Ward (Heat Policy Innovation Hub, Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability), Linda Coley (Ormond Center, Divinity School), Francis Bouchard (Climate Leader in Residence and climate resilience and insurance executive), Susannah Tuttle (N.C. Interfaith Power & Light, N.C. Council of Churches), and Robert Reese (S.C. Interfaith Power & Light) will co-lead a research project examining environmental and climate justice in North and South Carolina. Alongside other partners from Duke (Michelle Lewis, Divinity School; Jordan Clark, Nicholas Institute), and the private sector (Conitsha Barnes, Duke Energy), the team will address the funding gap contributing to persistent energy inequality.

Heat Policy Innovation Hub Director Ashley Ward and collaborators Chris Beyer (School of Medicine), Robert Tighe (School of Medicine) and Norman Wirzba (Duke Divinity School) have received a grant to explore the intersection of climate and human health. The project—“Cultivating Climate Health Leadership: Duke’s Path Forward”—will leverage interdisciplinary dialogue and collaboration to advance actionable research toward a comprehensive climate-health portfolio. The Interdisciplinary Community Planning Grant is awarded by the Office of the Provost and cosponsored by the Duke Climate Commitment. 

Parts of the United States hit hard by last year's sweltering conditions are preparing for more extreme heat this summer.

Ashley Ward, director of the Heat Policy Innovation Hub at the Nicholas Institute, told NBC News that government officials should treat onslaughts of high heat and humidity similar to hurricanes, tornadoes and other disasters. “[Last summer] was our category 5 heat event,” she said. “The extreme nature of what we saw was enough to focus attention on this topic.”


In a new Nature paper, researchers confirmed that 2023 was the hottest on record in the northern hemisphere in 2,000 years. Ashley Ward, director of the Duke University Heat Policy Innovation Hub, and other experts talked with STAT about policies that could help combat the health effects of rising temperatures.

The U.S. military and many sports governing bodies use wet bulb globe temperature to assess heat risk more accurately than the heat index. The same standards used for soldiers and student-athletes should also be applied for workers on farms and other industries who labor outdoors during the hottest times of the year, write Duke University Heat Policy Innovation Hub experts Ashley Ward and Jordan Clark in an op-ed for STAT.

The Heat Action Plan Toolkit features a customizable heat action plan template for North Carolina counties, as well as outreach resources and recommended actions for healthcare staff and local leaders when extreme heat is in the forecast. Experts from the Duke University Heat Policy Innovation Hub collaborated on the toolkit with the North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resiliency, North Carolina State Climate Office and North Carolina Division of Public Health.

The N.C. Office of Recovery and Resiliency announced a new Heat Action Plan Toolkit that aims to reduce heat-related health impacts to North Carolina residents and workers. “Providing concrete guidance to counties on how to plan, prepare, and respond to extreme heat is critical to protect our communities, particularly those most vulnerable,” said Ashley Ward, director of the Duke University Heat Policy Innovation Hub, one of the partners that developed the toolkit.

Extreme heat is not a single-season issue, says Ashley Ward, director of the Heat Policy Innovation Hub. In this video op-ed, Ward calls for heat to be treated like other natural disasters, with local leaders and policymakers prioritizing year-round planning and preparation for this growing public health challenge.

As 90+ degree days become more common, more accurate measures of extreme heat, such as wet bulb globe temperature, can help protect outdoor workers, Ashley Ward, director of the Duke University Heat Policy Innovation Hub, explained to North Carolina Health News.