Extreme heatwave in India: what is the “wet bulb temperature”?

This index is calculated from two main variables, although the relationship is not linear: ambient temperature and humidity. By making a thermodynamic equation, we get the temperature. However, the closer it is to the human body, i.e. 35-37°C, the harder it is to sweat and therefore to remove heat from the body. This condition can lead to organ dysfunction, to hyperthermia, or even death, depending on the duration of exposure and the person’s health condition.

“The skin can’t breathe because it’s saturated, because the humidity is too high”, explains CNRS researcher Sarah Safiedine. The human body is thus more easily able to withstand high temperatures with dry weather than slightly lower temperatures with high humidity.

Taking these wet-bulb temperatures into account, the scientists demonstrated that regions with extremely high temperatures would not be the only ones experiencing climate change. Places where peak heat is not necessarily reached can become uninhabitable if the humidity level is very high. According to researcher Sarah Safiedine, who has studied the Persian Gulf in particular, of particular concern, maritime areas close to the Equator may prove to be a risky area.

Garfield Woolery

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