Parts of Persian Gulf likely face deadly heat by end of 21st century

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Some parts of the Persian Gulf region could see lethally hot summers by the end of the century as a result of climate change, if carbon dioxide emissions continue at their current pace, a new study warned.

The study, published on Monday in British journal Nature Climate Change, comes ahead of a United Nations summit on global warming in Paris where world leaders will try to secure a deal to curb global warming.

Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Loyola Marymount University in the United States conclude that conditions in the Persian Gulf region, including its shallow water and intense sun, make it "a specific regional hotspot where climate change, in absence of significant mitigation, is likely to severely impact human habitability in the future."

Using high-resolution versions of standard climate models, researchers found that many major cities in the region could exceed a tipping point for human survival, even in shaded and well-ventilated spaces.

Study co-author Elfatih Eltahir, an MIT environmental engineering professor, said in a press statement that this threshold "has, as far as we know ... never been reported for any location on the Earth."

Researchers focused on a key heat measurement known as the "wet-bulb temperature" that combines temperature and humidity. A wet-bulb temperature of 35 degrees Celsius is regarded as the survivability limit for healthy people.

This limit was almost reached this summer in the region. On July 31, the wet-bulb temperature in Bandahr Mashrahr, Iran, hit 34.6 degrees Celsius - just a fraction below the threshold, for an hour or less.

According to the study, by the latter part of this century, major cities such as Qatar's Doha, Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, and Iran's Bandar Abbas could exceed the 35 degrees Celsius threshold.

What is more, hot summer conditions that now occur once every 20 days or so "will characterize the usual summer day in the future," Eltahir said.

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