Qatar’s capital and several other Gulf cities will in the future become too hot for human survival during the summer if climate change forecasts prove accurate, according to research published this week.
Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change, American academics Jeremy Pal and Elfatih Eltahir said Doha, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Dhahran in Saudi Arabia and Bandar Abbas in Iran will experience temperature levels that are “intolerable to humans” by the end of this century due to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases.
Temperatures above 45C will become the norm throughout July, August and September in many of the region’s low-lying cities while urban areas such as Kuwait City and Al Ain will see temperatures hit 60C in some years, the report stated.
The authors said Qatar is especially vulnerable:
“Doha is uniquely geographically positioned to receive hot dry air from the desert interior to the west and hot moist air from the Gulf,” they said in the report.
The research used a measurement known as “wet bulb temperature” (WBT) that takes into account both temperature and humidity. In simple terms, it’s the temperature of air that’s been cooled by evaporating moisture.
Exposure to a WBT of 35C (95F) for six hours or more “would probably be intolerable even for the fittest of humans” and lead to hyperthermia. According to a report in the Guardian, a WBT of 35C is equivalent to a combination of 46C heat and 50 percent humidity.
The report added that several cities in the region are approaching, but have not yet exceeded, this threshold. In the case of Doha, forecasts suggest this limit could be breached between the years 2095 and 2100.
The authors said their research suggests that countries such as Qatar would benefit considerably by supporting international efforts to cut greenhouse gases and limit the rise in global temperatures.
In a comprehensive 2011 climate change report to the UN, Qatar acknowledged that an increase in temperatures and reduction in rainfall would further stress the desert country’s environment.
This, in turn, could lead to increased cases of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
However, Qatar also noted that a sharp reduction in greenhouse gas emissions could cause the country financial hardships if the world suddenly stopped buying and burning its fossil fuels.
The Nature Climate Change article comes on the heels of a longer and hotter-than-normal summer here, with temperatures on average being 6C warmer in Doha than in a normal month, according to the country’s meteorology department.
One of the primary culprit was El Niño, a climate cycle that’s typically associated with warmer temperatures. However, the Qatar MET also said climate change is playing a role.
Climate change experts and politicians from around the world are scheduled to meet in Paris this December to hash out a new strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emission and limit the rise in the earth’s temperatures.
Qatar and the rest of the GCC countries missed an Oct. 1 deadline to submit reports quantifying their emissions and how they plan to reduce them.
But the UAE and Oman have since filed their reports.