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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

A crowd of game attendees stand huddled together while waiting to cross a busy street towards Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 2. The first Wisconsin football game of the 2023 season was reported to be the hottest game day at Camp Randall.  

Hottest game in Camp Randall history highlights severity of climate change

Badger fans packed the stadium for the season opener Saturday despite temperatures soaring over 90 degrees

 If you’re a fan of Badger football, you’ve likely heard buzz about new aspects of this season. Saturday’s game brought the first appearance of head coach Luke Fickell, a look at new quarterback Tanner Mordecai and legendary plays from Chez Mellusi. 

However, one “first” loomed larger than the electric energy on the field and was felt throughout the stadium: record-setting heat. 

The 91-degree temperature marked the hottest-ever football game at Camp Randall Stadium in Badger history. Despite the extreme conditions, 76,224 fans sold out Camp Randall for the season opener. 

“I heard that it was going to be hot, but I figured my first football game as a student would be worth it,” University of Wisconsin-Madison freshman Stella Beidel said.

New Badgers typically anticipate swaying to “Varsity,” sporting striped overalls and standing for hours on the bleachers at their first game. 

Now, climate change is altering these traditions, as Beidel noted. 

“I saw more people sitting down and leaving earlier than I expected,” she said. “Participating in ‘Jump Around’ was a lot harder, too.” 

The first 7,500 fans were given a free red and white water bottle and bucket hat to reward their dedication to supporting the team. Still, students like Beidel and her friends resorted to soaking the hats under bathroom sinks during halftime to keep cool. 

UW-Madison aided safety efforts by allowing each fan to bring in two water bottles — doubling the amount available for sale — and adding four additional water stations to the stadium.Misting fans and cooling tents were also available to football attendees. 

But the high heat still heavily affected individuals. UW Athletics anticipated this by employing extra medical staff for the game, who provided on-site health observations for 250 fans. There were also 50 calls for first aid, 36 for paramedics and nine people transported by ambulance, according to statistics released after the game by the UW-Madison Police Department. 

Additionally, the heat interfered with athletic photography. The Wisconsin State Journal reported heat waves distorted multiple images from the game, blurring the classic Badger colors together and dampening clarity.  

What is causing these new record-setting realities? Put simply, climate change. 

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Scientists have long collected evidence for global warming as a result of human activity. For example, this time series tool from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) displays widespread and steady increases in land and ocean temperatures.

Heat is manifesting itself in new ways throughout Wisconsin as climate warming trends continue. 

Besides Bucky breaking an extra sweat at Camp Randall, counties across the state experienced effects from a heat dome in August. A heat dome occurs when hot air is trapped over large regions as a result of atmospheric winds. 

The consequential high temperatures and humidity prompted heat advisories and even closed schools in Milwaukee. Back in Madison, university officials monitored the extreme conditions and made changes to summer programming as necessary. 

Cities like Madison and Milwaukee are more likely to need preventive measures to face the heat because they are susceptible to the urban heat island effect. 

According to the Community Economic Development Division of Extension, urban heat island effect occurs when pavement and building materials store and radiate heat in built areas during the summer without trees and other vegetative cover to provide shade — for example, Camp Randall. 

Scientists seek health warning system for extreme weather

Considering this summer and Saturday’s experiences, it’s clear climate change will be infiltrating Badger football and beyond. It may become common for temperatures to rise with your excitement as you anticipate season openers and the first summer night at the Memorial Union Terrace. 

While checking advisories and taking precautions before going outside may not be ideal, these practices are vital in an ever-warming world. 

Even though it may feel defeating to have the sun burning brighter on your skin, these changing climates are shining light on new efforts in scientific research. 

Larry Kalkstein, a UW-Madison climatologist, is partnering with Nelson Institute PhD students Elizabeth Berg and Becky Rose as well as Public Health master’s student Sara Pabich to develop a health warning system for citizens in Madison and Milwaukee. 

The study, which is part of the Wisconsin Heat Health Network, could bring new applicable coping mechanisms to student and community populations. 

Checking climate-specific weather apps and packing extreme weather apparel may become the new normal. Additionally, directing resources to at risk populations may be increasingly prioritized.

The effects of extreme weather will look different for everyone. Maybe you’ll live in a dorm without air conditioning. Maybe you’ll be stranded without transportation on a cold January day. Or maybe you’ll be baking in the sun on the bleachers of Camp Randall. 

No matter the situation, remember to stay safe. And when you’ve recovered from the conditions, follow tips for climate resilience. While global warming has varying individual impacts, communities can band together for positive change. 

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