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Future temperature in southwest Asia projected to exceed a threshold for human adaptability


A human body may be able to adapt to extremes of dry-bulb temperature (commonly referred to as simply temperature) through perspiration and associated evaporative cooling provided that the wet-bulb temperature (a combined measure of temperature and humidity or degree of ‘mugginess’) remains below a threshold of 35 °C. (ref. 1). This threshold defines a limit of survivability for a fit human under well-ventilated outdoor conditions and is lower for most people. We project using an ensemble of high-resolution regional climate model simulations that extremes of wet-bulb temperature in the region around the Arabian Gulf are likely to approach and exceed this critical threshold under the business-as-usual scenario of future greenhouse gas concentrations. Our results expose a specific regional hotspot where climate change, in the absence of significant mitigation, is likely to severely impact human habitability in the future.

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Figure 1: Spatial distributions of extreme wet bulb temperature and extreme temperature.
Figure 2: Time series of the annual maximum TWmax for each ensemble member and GHG scenario.
Figure 3: Histogram of the summer (JAS) TWmax for each GHG scenario’s ensemble; historical (blue), RCP4.5 (green) and RCP8.5 (red).


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This research was supported by the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Science (KFAS). The NASA SRB were obtained from the NASA Langley Research Center Atmospheric Sciences Data Center NASA/GEWEX SRB Project.

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E.A.B.E. conceived the study with input from J.S.P. Both authors were involved in design of the research, interpretation of the results, and discussion of implications. J.S.P. performed the simulations, analysed the data and created the figures. Both authors contributed equally to the writing and revision of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Elfatih A. B. Eltahir.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Pal, J., Eltahir, E. Future temperature in southwest Asia projected to exceed a threshold for human adaptability. Nature Clim Change 6, 197–200 (2016).

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