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Climate Change: Rising Intolerable Heat in the Persian Gulf May Make Region Uninhabitable

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Professors at Loyola Marymount University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology say extreme temperatures in major cities such as Abu Dhabi and Dubai likely due to global warming.

DesertHeatExtreme temperatures and humidity around the Persian Gulf are likely to approach and exceed a threshold of human tolerance within this century if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase on their current trajectory, according to new research released online today by the journal Nature Climate Change.

These findings, by Jeremy Pal, Ph.D., of Loyola Marymount University, and Elfatih Eltahir, Sc.D., of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, suggest that human habitability of major cities such as Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Doha, Dhahran and Bandar Abbas may be severely impacted by extreme weather events in the future.

The human body can shed heat through evaporative cooling of perspiration provided that the wet-bulb temperature — a combined measure of temperature and humidity — remains below 95 F (35 C), which the scientists say converts to a heat index or feels like a temperature of 170 F.

Pal and Eltahir used a number of high-resolution regional climate model simulations to project the incidence of extremes of wet-bulb temperature around the Persian Gulf toward the end of the 21st century (2071–2100).

“These extreme temperatures are likely to become a normal summertime heat wave event by the end of the century, if no progress on climate change is made,” said Pal.  “On a more positive note, we show that greenhouse gas mitigation efforts would greatly reduce the probability of occurrence of these extremes in temperature.”

In an accompanying News & Views article, Christoph Schär comments that “if wet-bulb temperature can rise to above 34 C (94 F) in the current climate [as it did in July this year], it is credible that it will rise further within this century.”

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