Persian Gulf countries are already unbelievably hot, but according to a scientific study released on Monday, summers will be so hot in the Persian Gulf by the end of this century because of climate change that humans will not be able to live there, To some people, that is no great loss, given the dismal history of Persian Gulf countries such as Iran and Iraq in recent decades. Because of all the trouble there has been in the Persian Gulf some people say, “Let the supporters of Al Qaeda fry”.
But it isn’t as simple as that. First of all, not everybody who lives in the Persian Gulf region is a supporter of Al Qaeda. For example, the vast majority of Kuwaitis definitely are not. Beyond that, such an attitude is short-sighted and ignores a huge problem headed our way. The scientific data indicates not only that much of the oil-rich Persian Gulf region will be uninhabitable by the end of this century; it also indicates that the problem will slowly but surely spread worldwide.
The study, published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, was conducted by Elfatih Eltahir, from MIT, and Jeremy Pal of Loyola Marymount University in California.
“Within this century, parts of the Persian Gulf region could be hit with unprecedented events of deadly heat as a result of climate change.”
Pal and Eltahir reached the conclusion that the geographic and meteorological conditions in the Persian Gulf region make the area “a specific regional hotspot where climate change, in absence of significant mitigation, is likely to severely impact human habitability in the future.”
These conditions include the low elevation of the land in the entire area, an almost constantly clear sky, the intense heat of the sun, the close presence of a large body of water that increases heat absorption, and the shallowness of the Persian Gulf itself, which produces high water temperatures that leads to strong evaporation and very high humidity.
When Eltahir and Pal ran high-resolution versions of standard climate models, they found that many of the major cities in the Persian Gulf region will almost certainly exceed the tipping point for human survival, even in shaded and well-ventilated spaces. The tipping point referred to in the study is the wet-bulb temperature measurement, which combines temperature and humidity, in much the same way that during the hot humid summer months our weather reports contain a temperature-humidity Index (THI). The wet-bulb temperature measurement reflects conditions the human body can maintain without artificial cooling.
The human body reacts to heat by producing sweat, which evaporates and cools our skin. But as the temperature and moisture in the air increase, the evaporative cooling process becomes less and less effective. Eventually it reaches a point where the body can no longer cool off.
The wet-bulb temperature threshold (tipping point) for survival for more than six unprotected hours is 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit). Scientists consider this condition to be lethal, even for the fittest of humans. But remember this is not the 95 degrees Fahrenheit we experience on a hot summer day. According to Wikipedia, “The wet-bulb temperature is the temperature a parcel of air would have if it were cooled to saturation (100% relative humidity) by the evaporation of water into it, with the latent heat being supplied by the parcel.”
According to the data gathered by Eltahir and Pal, “This limit was almost reached this summer, at the end of an extreme, weeklong heat wave in the region: On July 31, the wet-bulb temperature in Bandahr Mashrahr, Iran, hit 34.6 C — just a fraction below the threshold, for an hour or less.” Eltahir says that prior to this the threshold “has, as far as we know … never been reported for any location on Earth.”
Analysis of the data shows that by the end of this century, major cities in the Persian Gulf area will almost certainly exceed the 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit), threshold several times over a 30-year period. Moreover, Eltahir says that the unbearably hot summer conditions that now occur about once every 20 days will become the norm for summer days in the near future.
The data analysis indicates that the other side of the Arabian Peninsula, adjacent to the Red Sea, will see experience extreme heat, but dangerous heat extremes will also occur there, reaching wet-bulb temperatures of 32 to 34 C. This could be extremely dangerous because the annual Hajj sometimes occurs during these hot months. During this annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca – as many as 2 million pilgrims take part in religious rituals that include standing outdoors for a full day of prayer.
Eltahir and Pal’s data indicates that in drier locations such as Kuwait City, the actual air temperature will exceed 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit), but the dry air will keep the wet-bulb temperature within survivable limits.
The research done by Eltahir and Pal was supported by the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Science. The question is, who is going to fund the research needed to find out how climate change is affecting the wet-bulb temperature threshold (tipping point) where we live?