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The Wet Bulb Globe Temperature

The Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) is a composite temperature used to estimate the effect of temperature, humidity, and solar radiation on humans. The WBGT value is used as a heat index in many sporting situations to determine the impact of the environmental temperature, such as at the Australian Tennis Open.

WBGT instrumentWBGT instrument


In the late 1950s, at the US Marine Corps Recruit Depot on Parris Island in South Carolina, there was particularly high humidity and the Marines were required to perform high intensity exercise in uniform, and subsequently there was a significant number of casualties due to heat stroke. Prompted by this, the Department of the Navy commissioned studies on the effects of heat on exercise performance.

These studies resulted in a heat index called the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT). The WBGT was later used by researchers as an easily measured general heat-stress index, and over time its use has become more widespread in workplaces and sporting situations. In 1989, WBGT was suggested as an international standard (ISO 7243).


WBGT instruments are available commercially, but they are fairly expensive, requiring regular maintenance if they are to produce accurate values.


The WBGT is measured by a simple three-temperature element device:

  1. The natural wet-bulb temperature (Tw), which consists of a thermometer with its bulb covered with a wettened cotton wick supplied with distilled water from a reservoir. The cotton wick will always be wet, allowing continuous evaporative cooling of the thermometer's bulb, simulating the evaporation of sweat. The natural wet-bulb thermometer, like the black globe thermometer is not shielded from the wind or radiation. This thermometer represents the integrated effect of humidity, wind and radiation.
  2. The black globe temperature (Tg), which usually consists of a 150 mm (6 inches) black globe with a thermometer located at the center. The black globe temperature represents the integrated effects of radiation and wind.
  3. The (shade) air temperature (Ta), which consists of a thermometer shielded from radiation - generally by being placed in a weather screen. It is the standard temperature normally quoted in weather observations and forecasts.


The three elements Tw, Tg, and Ta are combined into a weighted average to produce the WBGT.

WBGT = (0.7 × Tw) + (0.2 × Tg) + (0.1 × Ta)

Indoors, or when solar radiation is negligible, the following formula is used:

WBGT = (0.7 x Tw) + (0.3 x Tg)

The temperatures may be in either Celsius or Fahrenheit.

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The above information is presented as a general guide. The author and publisher take no responsibility for any possible consequences of any treatment, procedure, exercise, action or application of medication based on this information. See more: Disclaimer.

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