If you have ever stepped foot on artificial turf on a hot day, there is no secret that conditions can be downright miserable. As many fall sports kick-off, they are having to deal with intense temperatures across the board. The heat is even more intense for those on the turf. A study from Penn State shows that some of the hottest temperatures ever recorded on the turf are between 175º and 200º! We know for sure the air temperature at the 200º Utah turf reading was 98º. Typically, less humid and sunny situations can accelerate these temperatures even more.
Those of you who have stepped foot on an artificial turf playing field know there are millions of little rubber pellets throughout the grass. Those black rubber pellets often are thought of as to why the turf gets so hot. That is not the case. The main reason the turf gets so hot is actually due to the lack of a natural process called transpiration. Transpiration happens when a live plant (grass) naturally releases water, then that water is evaporated allowing for the surface to naturally cool. This cannot happen within the fake grass.
Research shows that natural grass generally only ranges from 75º to 95º on a hot day. This is significantly cooler than artificial turf. Often times the grass is cooler than the air temperature, thanks to evaporative cooling through evapotranspiration. You can generally bet the turf will be between 35º and 55º hotter than the grass surface, no matter the time of year. In theory, this would be a welcomed addition in the cooler months, but can take a toll on your body in the heat. Avoid the turf and find some grass if possible in the heat.
The best way to avoid these scorching turf temperatures would be to exercise early in the day or late at night when the air is cooler. Of course, it is important to stay hydrated, but also know that if you stop sweating that is a sign your body needs more water. Apply sunscreen often and avoid wearing dark-colored clothing. Light-colored and looser fabrics will help you stay cool in the intense heat.
Our extended outlook is favoring these warmer temperatures to stick around through late August and early September. It is important to keep these heat safety ideas in mind.
-Meteorologist Warren Sears