UV Index in Singapore Reaches 'Extreme' Levels

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UV Index Reaches New Highs in Singapore

UV Index Reaches New Highs in Singapore

No matter where you are, you are unlikely able to escape from getting exposed to UV rays from the sun. UV rays, or ultraviolet rays are a type of electromagnetic radiation that reaches the earth’s surface. The sun emits UV rays in 3 main wavelengths – UVA, UVB, and UVC.

3 Types of UV Rays

UVA RAYS These have the longest wavelengths among UV rays and can penetrate deep into the skin. While they are less intense than UVB rays, they are present throughout the day and can cause skin ageing and contribute to skin cancer development

UVB RAYS These have shorter wavelengths and are stronger and more intense than UVA rays. UVB rays are primarily responsible for causing sunburns and are the main contributor to skin redness and are the main cause of skin cancer.

UVC RAYS These have the shortest wavelengths and are the strongest. Fortunately, the earth’s atmosphere absorbs almost all UVC rays, so they do not reach the earth’s surface.

UVA, UVB and UVC Rays

How Are UV Rays Measured?

Various levels of the UV Index

UV rays are measured following an international standard index called UVI, or Ultraviolet Index. It describes the level of solar UV radiation on the earth’s surface. The index ranges from 0 to 11+ and the values are grouped into various exposure categories. A higher index value indicates a greater potential for harmful effects to the skin and eyes.

UV Readings in Singapore

In Singapore, the UVI is measured at the Changi Metrological Station and reported every 15 minutes between 7am and 7pm.

UV radiation levels depend on the time of the day, season, latitude, cloud cover and ozone levels.

For the first time, the UVI in Singapore reached above 11 in the afternoon on 27 March 2024. It first entered the extreme level at about 12.15pm and then climbed to a peak of about 12 at about 12.45pm. By 2.15pm, the UVI dropped to 10, which is still considered very high.

Temperatures were hovering between 31.1 degrees Celsius and 35.7 degrees Celsius at around 2pm.

To put things in perspective, a person exposed to UV reading of 12 on the index is likely to get sunburnt within 12 minutes.

A hot, sunny day in Singapore

What Are Some Harmful Effects of UV Rays?

Hyperpigmentation caused by UV damage

While some UV exposure is important for health functions such as production of Vitamin D in the body and treating diseases such as jaundice in babies or psoriasis in adults, overexposure of UV rays can cause more harm than good.

DNA DAMAGE UV radiation can penetrate the skin and cause damage to the DNA makeup of the skin cells. This damage can lead to mutations, increasing the risks of skin cancer. Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer worldwide, and UV radiation exposure is a significant factor for its development.

SKIN AGEING UV radiation can break down collagen and elastin fibers in the skin, leading to premature ageing. This can result in formation of wrinkles, fine lines, sagging skin, and other signs of ageing. Chronic exposure to UV radiation accelerates the ageing process, making people look older than they really are.

SUNBURN UVB rays are primarily responsible for causing sunburns. Sunburn is not only painful and uncomfortable but also indicates damage to the skin cells. Repeated sunburns over time can also increase the risk of skin cancer and other skin-related diseases.

EYE DAMAGE Prolonged exposure to UV radiation can also harm the eyes. It can lead to conditions such as cataracts, which cloud the lens of the eyes and can impair vision. UV radiation is also associated with the development of macular degeneration, a leading cause of vision loss in older adults. Additionally, UV exposure can cause photokeratitis, a painful inflammation of the cornea similar to sunburn.

WEAKENED IMMNUE SYSTEM Excessive exposure to UV radiation can suppress the immune system’s ability to defend against harmful pathogens and foreign invaders. This weakened immune response can make people more susceptible to infections and other health issues.

Woman with extreme sunburn

What To Expect From Now Until End of 2024

The Metrological Service Singapore predicted that 2024 will be hotter than 2024, which was the fourth warmest year on record for Singapore.

This year is likely hotter than 2023 due to the lingering effects of climate phenomenon known as El Nino, which reached Singapore in second half of 2023, which causes hotter and drier weather in South-east Asia.

To reduce negative effects of UV rays, the National Environment Agency has advised to put on more broad-based sunscreen of at least SPF30 and wear protective clothing as much as possible when outdoors. Wearing shades is also encouraged to protect the eyes from long-term sun damage.

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