'Seoul to Experience 67 Days of Lethal Heat in 2100'

Pablo Tucker
June 20, 2017

Currently, about 30 percent of the world's human population is exposed to deadly heatwave conditions each year, Mora said. There needs to be an urgent major reduction of carbon emissions and greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxides researchers and experts believe. However, even with reductions, one in two people at the end of the century will likely face at least 20 days when extreme heat can kill, according to the analysis, published on Monday in Nature Climate Change. But beyond these highly cited examples, little was known about how common such killer heatwaves are.

Camilo Mora of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the study's lead author says "for heatwaves, our options are now between bad or awful, these deadly heat waves are becoming common", and she expressed surprise that no major concern is shown regarding these impending dangers.

Risky heatwaves are more common than people realize, killing people in over 60 different parts of the world every year. "Our study shows, however, that it is warming in the tropics that will pose the greatest risk to people from deadly heat events".

Heatwaves have also claimed victims more recently. For the past two weeks, dozens of people have died in India and Pakistan's current heatwave, where temperatures have spiked to a record 128 degrees Fahrenheit (53.5 degrees Celsius). They applied that information to current climate data to calculate how much of the population experiences deadly heat each year and used temperature and humidity projections to see how that would likely change in the future. Deadly heat wave reports are also in from Washington, D.C., New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Toronto, London, Sydney, Beijing, Tokyo, and São Paulo. Analyzing data, researchers find that the people at the most risk are those in the wet tropics.

How the number of days of deadly heat will change under different scenarios of greenhouse gas emissions.

In this scenario, the researchers predict that NY would have more than 50 days of deadly heat by 2100.

"The human body can only function within a narrow range of core body temperatures around 37 degrees Celsius". One of the main ways that the body releases heat is through sweating.

If our internal temperature gets close to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius), all-important cellular machinery start to break down. Anyone with a body temperature above 104 degrees is in extreme danger and would require immediate medical attention. Temperatures below the rim of the canyon are expected to reach as high as 117 degrees this week. In 2010, the Russian capital became engulfed by poisonous smog from wildfires and a sweltering heat wave that killed some 55,000 people across western Russia.

RG: Who is most at risk?

"Increasing inequality leads to increased deaths from heat extremes", says Keller. "I welcome this paper for highlighting this inequity and for its novel demonstration that changes in the combination of heat and humidity are critical to understanding the effect of global warming on human health".

Thousands of people have died in India from the heatwaves in recent years.

"Climate change has put humanity on a path that will become increasingly risky and hard to reverse if greenhouse gas emissions are not taken much more seriously", says Mora.

However, India's mean temperature has only risen 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit (0.5 degrees Celsius) in the last 50 years, which is a mild increase compared to other areas of the world.

Surface temperature measurements show that the Earth has warmed 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) since preindustrial times, but this additional heat is not evenly distributed.

Heat affects more the young and the elderly, as they lack resources and are more socially isolated, making them vulnerable to extreme heat.

City doctors said the number of patients turning up with dizziness, confusion and vomiting - symptoms of heat exhaustion, a precursor to deadly heatstroke - is increasing, with patients 50 to 70 years old seemingly most affected.

Temperature measurements reveal that summers in 92 percent of US cities have become hotter since 1970. "Globally, more people live in cities and that trend will continue". Monsoon showers, which would normally cool the city, are past due.

That future is what study author Camilo Mora calls a choice between "bad and awful", but crucially, it is still a choice.

"For heat waves, our options are now between bad or awful", Mora said. "Many people around the world are already paying the ultimate price of heatwaves".

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