‘Wet-Bulb’ Future

June 8, 2015

123243-5778393-6A damp-looking, deep-gray-ground fog deadens first light this too-early Monday on California’s north coast — although dismal appearing now, the NWS claims today will be ‘mostly sunny,‘ with temperatures in the low-70s, ‘heat wave‘ weather for us.

Of course, I’m being dumb — the NWS has issued a hot weather advisory for the interior of Northern California, where indeed will be a ‘heat wave’ with triple-digit temperatures possible, as a high-pressure system off coast will keep shit hot until maybe tomorrow, or maybe into the week.


Via powers of time-travel — now nearly five-and-a-half hours later and it’s bright, clear sunshine. And we’re already feeling the warmth.

(Illustration found here).

As per life nowadays, I got sleepy all of a sudden earlier, and per the entitlement of retirement, back to bed I did fold. In the wake of one cup of coffee and a small bowl, I did work up the first two graphs of this post, and didn’t want to delete them, so just marked the incident, and continued as if nothing had happened — after my little pick-me-up nap, I also took a hike to Safeway and back.
And as I just noted, the coast is feeling the warm.

In that respect, yesterday my brother, who lives in south-central Alabama, called and we chatted about family matters and what-not, but the main topic was the heat out there. Especially in relation to humidity, hardly none out here in California, full-the-fuck-full of the shit back in Alabama.
A few minutes outside there with minimum movement means you’re sopping with sweat. I grew up with it, and much prefer the west’s dry heat to that heavy-layered environment — hot means more than just the temperature.
And with that is something I haven’t been familiar, the ‘wet bulb temperature,” which supposedly is the real indicator of how hot it is, and how humans can survive in it. This the age of rising heat, a most-interesting point.

In a commentary via the Edwards Air Force Base Website, an explanation for the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT):

The WBGT combines four thermal components: ambient air temperatures, relative humidity, air velocity and radiant heat. At Edwards, heat related incidents can happen. It is determined that high ambient temperatures, high air velocity and high radiant heat could lead to these incidents. An effective means in reducing heat related incidents is the use of the WBGT heat index flags.

The flags are based on the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature Index, a calculated measurement based on the outside air temperature, radiant heat, humidity and air movement.

Humidity apparently  the asshole of this whole thingy. And what provoked this ‘wet-bulb’ gauge was an interesting, thought-provoking piece at the New York Times on Saturday, which as its crucial point was climate change, global warming, and rising heat coupled with the horror of humidity.
Major points:

…‘wet-bulb temperature’ is essentially a measure of how well you can cool your skin by sweating, which is how humans stay alive in the worst heat.
But high humidity can defeat that cooling system; it makes the heat that much more dangerous.
The wet-bulb temperature is not typically reported.
While dangerous levels depend on a person’s activity level and clothing, wet-bulb temperature offers a stark measure of risk in a warming world that will experience more extreme combinations of both heat and humidity.
A human’s core temperature is about 98.6 degrees, but the skin temperature of the trunk is about 4 to 9 degrees colder, depending on how warm it is and how active a person is.

Heat waves are the natural disasters easiest to tie to climate change.
Statistical analyses and climate modeling indicate that the 2010 Russian heat wave was about five times more likely to have occurred in 2010 than it would have been in the cooler 1960s.
An analysis conducted after the 2003 European heat wave concluded that it was twice as likely as it would have been before the Industrial Revolution.
A recent study in the journal Nature Climate Change found that the 1.5 degrees of global warming since the start of the Industrial Revolution had quadrupled the probability of moderate heat extremes.

Some summers would have days so stiflingly muggy that a healthy individual would suffer heat stroke in less than an hour of moderate, shaded activity outside.
And carrying on this way through the 22nd century locks in a trajectory where summer outdoor conditions could become physiologically intolerable for humans and livestock in the eastern United States — and in regions currently home to more than half the planet’s population.

Read the whole piece, way-well worth the time. And a fright, fairly-pessimistic despite a ‘this fate is not yet locked in‘ scenario ending — no one wants to say, ‘We’re fucked!’

Joe Romm at Climate Progress on Friday dances all around it in his story on the NOAA  study from last week on how there’s been no slow-down, or “hiatus” in global warming, while in fact, earth is getting hotter.
Romm gets close:

The authors warned that, by 2020, human-caused warming will move the Earth’s climate system into a regime of rapid multi-decadal rates of warming.
They project that within the next few years, “there is an increased likelihood of accelerated global warming associated with release of heat from the sub-surface ocean and a reversal of the phase of decadal variability in the Pacific Ocean.”
That appears to be happening now.

Humid in the humility…


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