New research warns about climate change driving temperatures up in the Persian Gulf region and leading to heat levels that humans can no longer tolerate by this century's end. Experts note, however, that certain parts of the region will still likely remain livable.
Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Loyola Marymount University forecasted that at least five of the region's major cities could experience very hot and humid summer weather that not even young, relatively healthy individuals would not be able to stay outdoors for a couple of hours.
The study delved on wet-bulb temperatures scale, a combination of heat, humidity and air pressure producing an extremely muggy environment. Using this scale, six hours of 95 degrees Fahrenheit is beyond the threshold, leading to hyperthermia or the lack of ability for body temperature regulation.
The region includes countries such as United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Iran, all already facing heat waves and summer temperatures that exceed 100 degrees. This summer, it was reported that it felt like 164 degrees F in one Iranian city.
Elfatih Eltahir, co-author of the study, highlighted the possibility that some areas in the Persian Gulf will be better off than others.
Dubai, according to him, has the economic conditions to adapt to the severely warming climate - a far cry from the "serious situation" of neighboring countries such as Yemen.
"[They] could use air conditioning and avoid the outdoors during heat waves but, in some corners of that region, there are communities and people who don't have the resources to do that," Eltahir explained, pointing to some sections of Yemen along the Red Sea as particularly vulnerable.
A commentary, however, hit "apocalyptic" media headlines on the story, citing a massive difference between a single six-hour timeframe over 30 years and daily, deadly summer conditions - the latter making cities actually uninhabitable, the former probably not.
Meteorologist Eric Holthaus wrote that Persian Gulf cities "have grudgingly adapted to these occasional conditions" and still manage to grow their populations, and that electricity is subsidized enough to make air conditioning accessible. Holthaus, though, mentioned the lessened ability of war-torn, impoverished countries such as Yemen to adapt.
He said that climate change "is bad enough" and does not need to be exaggerated, calling for sharply reducing greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate climate change.
Overstated or not, weather extremes are expected to take their toll on activities such as football and other outdoor sports, as well as the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia that sees an attendance of millions every year.
Photo: Milos Milosevic | Flickr