‘Deadly’ heat waves predicted for Gulf states by 2100 – Al Jazeera

Study finds Gulf cities could “experience temperature levels that are intolerable to humans” if climate change persists.

Teo Kermeliotis | 28 Oct 2015 11:22 GMT | Weather, Environment, Climate Change, Hajj, Middle East

Scorching temperatures are already standard for people living in the Gulf states, but by the end of the century, parts of the region could become so hot that it will be impossible for humans to spend time outside, a new study has warned.

The authors of the paper, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, said that major cities in the region, including Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Doha, “are likely to experience temperature levels that are intolerable to humans” if climate change persists.

Using a measurement method called ‘wet-bulb’ temperature – described as “a combined measure of temperature and humidity” – the authors put the threshold for human survival at 35 degrees Celsius.

Being exposed to such conditions for more than six hours “would probably be intolerable even for the fittest of humans”, the report said.

In order to forecast how future climate change would affect wet-bulb temperatures in the Gulf, the researchers ran a regional climate model following two different trajectories.

“[The scenarios are] ‘business-as-usual’ with severe climate and intolerable heat waves for the region of Southwest Asia, or a scenario with significant mitigation at the global scale that would avoid the serious impacts on the region,” Elfatih Eltahir, the co-author of the report and a professor of civil and environmental engineering at MIT, told Al Jazeera.

In the business-as-usual scenario, where the current pace of greenhouse gas emissions is maintained, the researchers found that wet-bulb temperature would exceed the 35C threshold several times over a 30-year-period by the end of the century in cities like Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Doha, Dhahran and Bandar Abbas, Iran.

“These are important future projections with serious implications,” Eltahir said.

“The time is now for action to be taken at a global scale,” he added, noting that if climate change continues at the same pace the severe conditions that now happen roughly once every 20 summer days will become a normal occurrence.

In such extreme conditions, researchers warned that “even the most basic outdoor activities are likely to be severely impacted”.

In particular, they cited the potential danger for the millions of Muslims attending the annual pilgrimage of Hajj.

“This necessary outdoor Muslim ritual is likely to become hazardous to human health, especially for the many elderly pilgrims, when the Hajj occurs during the boreal summer,” the authors said.

Commenting on the findings of the report, Al Jazeera’s senior weather presenter Robert McElwee said: “Without any sort of mitigation, Gulf countries all exceed the deadly 35C wet-bulb temperature – a figure directly related to humidity – as a daily average.

“Anyone who has experienced the high humidity of a Gulf summer can relate to the debilitating nature of high humidity at high temperature.

“With mitigation adopted globally, the contrast is stark – no Gulf nation would reach the deadly conditions regularly, just more often than now.”

An intolerable unimaginable heat forecast for Gulf – Al Arabiya

By AP, Washington Tuesday, 27 October 2015

If carbon dioxide emissions continue at their current pace, by the end of century parts of the Gulf will sometimes be just too hot for the human body to tolerate, a new study says.

How hot? The heat index — which combines heat and humidity — may hit 165 to 170 degrees (74 to 77 Celsius) for at least six hours, according to numerous computer simulations in the new study. That’s so hot that the human body can’t get rid of heat.

The elderly and ill are hurt most by current heart waves, but the future is expected to be so hot that healthy, fit people would be endangered, health experts say.

“You can go to a wet sauna and put the temperature up to 35 (Celsius or 95 degrees Fahrenheit) or so. You can bear it for a while, now think of that at an extended exposure” of six or more hours, said study co-author Elfatih Eltahir, an MIT environmental engineering professor.

While humans have been around, Earth has not seen that type of prolonged, oppressive combination of heat and humidity, Eltahir said. But with the unique geography and climate of the Gulf and increased warming projected if heat-trapping gas emissions continue to rise at current rates, it will happen every decade or so by the end of the century, according to the study published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

This would be the type of heat that would make deadly heat wave in Europe in 2003 that killed more than 70,000 people “look like a refreshing day or event,” said study co-author Jeremy Pal of Loyola Marymount University.

It would still be rare, and cities such as Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha wouldn’t quite be uninhabitable, thanks to air conditioning. But for people living and working outside or those with no air conditioning, it would be intolerable, said Eltahir and Pal. While Mecca won’t be quite as hot, the heat will likely still cause many deaths during the annual hajj pilgrimage, Eltahir said.

“Some of the scariest prospects from a changing clime involve conditions completely outside the range of human experience,” Carnegie Institute for Science climate researcher Chris Field, who wasn’t part of the study, wrote in an email. “If we don’t limit climate change to avoid extreme heat or mugginess, the people in these regions will likely need to find other places to live.”

Said Dr. Howard Frumkin, dean of the University of Washington school of public health, who wasn’t part of the research: “When the ambient temperatures are extremely high, as projected in this paper, then exposed people can and do die. The implication s of this paper for the Gulf region are frightening.”

But if the world limits future heat-trapping gas emissions — even close to the amount pledged recently by countries around the world ahead of climate talks later this year in Paris — that intolerable level of heat can be avoided, Eltahir said.