International Journal of Biometeorology

, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 94–102 | Cite as

Predicting survival time for cold exposure

  • Peter Tikuisis
Original Article


The prediction of survival time (ST) for cold exposure is speculative as reliable controlled data of deep hypothermia are unavailable. At best, guidance can be obtained from case histories of accidental exposure. This study describes the development of a mathematical model for the prediction of ST under sedentary conditions in the cold. The model is based on steady-state heat conduction in a single cylinder comprised of a core and two concentric annular shells representing the fat plus skin and the clothing plus still boundary layer, respectively. The ambient condition can be either air or water; the distinction is made by assigning different values of insulation to the still boundary layer. Metabolic heat production (M) is comprised of resting and shivering components with the latter predicted by temperature signals from the core and skin. Where the cold exposure is too severe forM to balance heat loss, ST is largely determined by the rate of heat loss from the body. Where a balance occurs, ST is governed by the endurance time for shivering. End of survival is marked by the deep core temperature reaching a value of 30° C. The model was calibrated against survival data of cold water (0 to 20° C) immersion and then applied to cold air exposure. A sampling of ST predictions for the nude exposure of an average healthy male in relatively calm air (1 km/h wind speed) are the following: 1.8, 2.5, 4.1, 9.0, and >24 h for −30, −20, −10, 0, and 10° C, respectively. With two layers of loose clothing (average thickness of 1 mm each) in a 5 km/h wind, STs are 4.0, 5.6, 8.6, 15.4, and >24 h for −50, −40, −30, −20, and −10° C. The predicted STs must be weighted against the extrapolative nature of the model. At present, it would be prudent to use the predictions in a relative sense, that is, to compare or rank-order predicted STs for various combinations of ambient conditions and clothing protection.

Key words

Hypothermia Shivering Immersion Clothing Wind 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Tikuisis
    • 1
  1. 1.Defence and Civil Institute of Environmental MedicineNorth YorkCanada

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