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Persian Gulf could experience 'intolerable' heat by end of the century

By 2100, parts of the Persian Gulf could experience heat and humidity so extreme that a person would not be able to survive being outside for several hours, researchers said.

In a study published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, Jeremy S. Pal of Loyola Marymount University and Elfatih A. B. Eltahir of MIT used climate models and a method of measuring atmospheric conditions known as wet-bulb temperature to determine how hot it would have to get for a person to sweat and still not cool off; they found that a wet-bulb temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit hits the mark (that's roughly the equivalent of a heat-index reading of 165 degrees Fahrenheit). After six hours of exposure, the conditions "would probably be intolerable even for the fittest of humans, resulting in hyperthermia," the researchers said.

Due to climate change, the coasts in the Middle East, where the water is already warm, would probably be the first to see these harsh combinations of heat and humidity, The New York Times reports. The 95-degree wet-bulb temperatures would likely happen once every 10 or 20 years, Eltahir said, and would be "quite lethal." Anyone without air conditioning or people working outdoors would suffer the most, as would people on the hajj, the pilgrimage that brings two million people to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, every year to pray outdoors. It takes place during different times of the year, and if it happened during an extremely hot summer, "this necessary outdoor Muslim ritual is likely to become hazardous to human health," the authors wrote. There is some hope, researchers say: If greenhouse gas emissions are reduced, "such efforts applied at the global scale would significantly reduce the severity of the projected impacts."