October 29, 2015

Deadly Heat Expected

Pilgrims in Mecca
According to a study published Monday some population centers in the Middle East "are likely to experience temperature levels that are intolerable to humans" because of humanity's contribution to climate change.

By the end of this century, areas of the Persian Gulf will experience waves of heat and humidity so severe that simply being outside for several hours could threaten human life.

As climate change causes temperatures to rise around the world, it should come as no surprise that the warm-water coasts in the Middle East could be the first to experience brutal combinations of heat and humidity. The conditions would not be constant, but spikes would become increasingly common.

A temperature that today would rank in the 95th percentile "becomes approximately a normal summer day" by the end of the century, the researchers said. Wet-bulb temperatures that even exceed the 95-degree threshold could be expected to occur once every 10 or 20 years, Dr. Eltahir said. "When they happen, they will be quite lethal," he said.

If the nations of the world reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions, the authors concluded, the predicted disasters can be prevented: "Such efforts applied at the global scale would significantly reduce the severity of the projected impacts."

Many cities on the Persian Gulf coast could be essentially uninhabitable by the end of the century for those without air-conditioning. "That is truly shocking," he wrote in an email exchange, and added that he found it ironic, "given the region's importance in providing fossil fuels."

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