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- Warming temperatures can escalate violence, urging comprehensive solutions.
- The effect of heat was greater on domestic violence than other types of violent crime.
- Tackling cultural norms, creating “heat refuges” are some key strategies to combat temperature-related violence.
We found violence increased with warmer weather. But the effect of heat was greater on domestic violence than other types of violent crime. The reasons, and solutions, are complex.
Hot weather, hot tempers
Rates of assault were higher in summer than in winter in most areas, except for a few places with snow tourism. Overall, domestic, non-domestic and sexual violence rose as temperatures increased from cool to warm.
Sexual assaults both indoors and outdoors also increased in warm temperatures, but declined or plateaued in hot weather.
Why are violence and hot weather linked?
In extreme heat, we may retreat inside if we can, where there’s a respite from the sun and potentially air conditioning. Given this, we might expect to see less of an association between violence and hot weather indoors. But our research found this wasn’t generally the case.
One limitation of our study is that we used outdoor ambient air temperature to represent heat exposure, regardless of where the crime occurred. However, heat will vary significantly by location on a given day. For example, an indoor location like a bakery or factory could be hotter than outside at a shady park and may remain hot regardless of the weather.
What about online?
However, in very hot weather that trend plateaued or even reversed, suggesting angry tweets may rise in extreme heat. Similarly, studies have found online hate speech increases in extreme heat.
While the drivers behind temperature-related violence are complex, there are things we can do. First, we need to address the big issues relating to domestic violence such as cultural norms, attitudes and legal provisions.