A heat index of 74º to 77ºC (165º to 170ºF) could make the Persian Gulf uninhabitable by the end of the century unless carbon dioxide emissions are scaled back now, according to a study published last week in the journal Nature Climate Change.
“You can go to a wet sauna and put the temperature up to 35ºC or so,” said co-author Elfatih Eltahir of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “You can bear it for a while. Now, think of that at an extended exposure” of six or more hours.
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The projection would make the killer heat wave that killed 70,000 people in Europe in 2003 “look like a refreshing day or event,” said co-author Jeremy Pal of Loyola Marymount University.
“Some of the scariest prospects from a changing clime involve conditions completely outside the range of human experience,” climate researcher Chris Field told CBC. “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.”
While people could still live in cities like Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Doha if they had air conditioning, conditions would be brutal for anyone working outdoors without access to cooling.
“When the ambient temperatures are extremely high, as projected in this paper, then exposed people can and do die,” said Dr. Howard Frumkin, Dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Washington. “The implications of this paper for the Gulf region are frightening.”