Research: Deadly heat too much for humans

Will humans adapt to high temperatures in the Persian Gulf?
Will humans adapt to high temperatures in the Persian Gulf?
The scene: A city street. A stoplight turns from red to green but there are no cars, or, for that matter, pedestrians able to brave the relentless heat.

   So is this science fiction or the future?
   As climate change progresses, heat waves could make it too hot for humans in the Persian Gulf region to adapt, according to research published Oct. 26 in the journal Nature Climate Change.
   Humans can adapt to high temperatures through perspiration if the “wet-bulb temperature” -- defined as a combined measure of temperature and humidity or degree of mugginess -- remains below a threshold of 35 degrees Celsius or 95 degrees Fahrenheit. That is the threshold "beyond which any exposure for more than six hours would probably be intolerable even for the fittest of humans," researchers wrote.
     The commonly used equivalent for wet bulb temperature is the National Weather Service’s heat index --a measure of how the temperature feels when humidity is combined with the air temperature.
     Using climate model simulations, researchers determined that the wet-bulb temperature is likely to “approach and exceed this critical threshold under the business-as-usual scenario of future greenhouse gas concentrations.”
      Hot spates that the region currently experiences could become common. Such major cities as Doha, Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and Bandar Abbas, Iran, could exceed the threshold several times during a 30-year period in the latter part of this century, an MIT news release pointed out.  
   The paper, “Future Temperature in Southwest Asia Projected to Exceed a Threshold for Human Adaptability,” is by Jeremy S. Pal of the Department of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, and Elfatih A. B. Eltahir of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. See the paper on MIT's website.


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