Sunday, May 10, 2020

Wet Bulb 35 - It's Already Here

It's not the heat, it's the humidity. Well, heat and humidity.

Another report. It's not the Kohler, Lenton, Svenning and Scheffer paper published in the Proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences on May 4th and discussed in this post.  This is a paper written by Raymond, Mathews and Horton published in the journal Science Advances on May 8th.

The latest paper focuses on something I touched upon in my previous post - the killer condition sometimes known as "Wet Bulb 35" when a combination of high heat and high humidity defeat the body's ability to regulate internal temperatures.

From The Guardian:
Intolerable bouts of extreme humidity and heat which could threaten human survival are on the rise across the world, suggesting that worst-case scenario warnings about the consequences of global heating are already occurring, a new study has revealed.

Scientists have identified thousands of previously undetected outbreaks of the deadly weather combination in parts of Asia, Africa, Australia, South America and North America, including several hotspots along the US Gulf coast. 
Humidity is more dangerous than dry heat alone because it impairs sweating – the body’s life-saving natural cooling system. 
The number of potentially fatal humidity and heat events doubled between 1979 and 2017, and are increasing in both frequency and intensity, according to the study published in Science Advances. 
In the US, the south-eastern coastal corner from eastern Texas to the Florida Panhandle experienced such extreme conditions dozens of times, with New Orleans and Biloxi, Mississippi the hardest hit. 
The most extreme incidents occurred along the Persian Gulf, where the heat and humidity combination surpassed the theoretical human survivability limit on 14 occasions. Doha, the capital of Qatar, where the World Cup will be held in 2022, was among the places to suffer – albeit briefly – these potentially fatal weather events. 
The ominous findings come as something of a surprise to scientists, as previous studies had projected such extreme weather events would occur later in the century, mostly in parts of the tropics and subtropics where humidity is already a problem.
Bummer, eh? Yet it impacts wealthy nations far differently than the typical Third World country. Rich folks tend to have air conditioning in their cars, their homes and their workplaces. When conditions turn really bad we've learned to establish cooling centers in malls and stadiums and we pass out water to those needing hydration.  Even then we can lose a lot of people especially the elderly and those unfortunate enough to live in apartments in older buildings that have neither air conditioning nor proper ventilation, turning them into ovens.

Think of it as the butcher's bill for our high-carbon/high emissions economy and lifestyle. Think of it as you try to justify the continuation of the petro-state.
“We may be closer to a real tipping point than we think,” said co-author Radley Horton. 
Air conditioning should help mitigate the impact for some people in rich countries such as the US and Qatar, but longer enforced periods indoors could have devastating economic consequences, according to Horton. Nor is air conditioning an option for most people in the poorer high-risk countries where subsistence farming remains common. 
Kristina Dahl, a climatologist at the Union of Concerned Scientists in the US, said the new paper shows “how close communities around the world are to the limits”.


Anonymous said...

I guess people refuse to stop looking in the rear view mirror at what was. rather than what is now and doing something about it like Jason Kenny and sorry to write Jason Trudeau. Anyong

The Disaffected Lib said...

I'm sorry, Anyong, but I didn't understand a bit of that.

e.a.f. said...

the problem of running air conditioning units all the time is it creates more problems. those unit create even more heat. The use electricity and some electricity comes from coal and oil and gas fired plants creating more heat and more pollution.

that sign which says, we might be old but we got to see all the great bands might include a line about we were the last generation to see the world as it once was, and be able to enjoy it.

The Disaffected Lib said...

Air-conditioning, like desalination, is a far from ideal solution to what can be a lethal threat, e.a.f. Many of solutions that are proposed have unintended consequences, a "lesser of two evils" sort of thing. Yet we opt for them because the alternative is worse.

Anonymous said...

Too many people do not want to listen to scientists. .They prefer to look in the rear view mirror to the past believing it to have been better. Anyong

The Disaffected Lib said...

There were times we could "reboot" society at least somewhat in the image of the past, Anyong. Those times are over. We are destabilized in so many ways and it is almost entirely of our own doing. There is no status quo any longer but a series of responses of varying degrees of effectiveness to challenges that we have triggered but never intended.

lungta said... mature tree equals three air conditioners.
Yes you will bake in your apartment block surrounded by concrete
or in that village with zero greenery
I'm on 50 by 150 in alberta
and i have cultivated 15 mature trees surronded by shrubs ....nanking cherry,honeysuckle ,goose berries
close all your windows in the morning when temp rises outside
open again in the evening to recool house over night (use fan to exchange air)
good insulation works both ways...r40 in ceiling

The Disaffected Lib said...

I do the very same thing, Lungta.

I'm situated a block back from the sea. Most nights in summer we'll either have an onshore breeze or outflow from the nearby mountain. Trees give me plenty of shade from the morning sun and my neighbour's crazy tall row of cedars cover the afternoon sun.

Shortly after I bought my place I realized it didn't ventilate well. The contractor-grade windows were crap, summer and winter. I replaced all the windows with casements that open to 100 to 105 degrees. Then I put in proper blinds. During the summer I close all the windows and blinds in the morning. Toward late afternoon I fully open the front windows and blinds. As the sun sets I do the same with the rear-facing windows and blinds. On the hottest days I use ceiling fans.

By the time the dinner plates are cleared the house is delightfully cool and fresh. I'll grab a book or put on a movie and it can feel as if I was sitting outdoors. Before bed I sometimes go out into the back yard and spend 20 minutes to an hour just gazing into the clear night sky. I try not to dwell on the inevitable return of the annual Rain Festival in October. For those two months here it's idyllic. For the rest it's cold and wet.