Climate explained: will the tropics eventually become uninhabitable?
The tropics are expected to experience rising temperatures and changes to rainfall. The question is: could this make the region uninhabitable?
UC’s Professor James Shulmeister explains the likelihood of this and the impact to the 3.3B people living across the Equator, in article on The Conversation.
Climate Explained is a collaboration between The Conversation, Stuff and the New Zealand Science Media Centre to answer your questions about climate change.
The tropics are expected to experience rising temperatures and changes to rainfall, and the question is whether this could make this region uninhabitable. How would this happen?
Humans regulate their body temperature in warm conditions through sweating. The sweat evaporates and cools the skin. But if conditions are humid, sweating and evaporation are much less effective.
Humans can survive and function in quite high temperatures if humidity is low, but as humidity increases our ability to function decreases rapidly. This effect is measured by a heat stress index which shows the apparent temperature you feel under different relative humidity conditions.
From a human health point of view, the wet bulb temperature is critical. This is the temperature a thermometer covered in a wet cloth would measure, and it reflects the maximum amount of cooling that can be achieved by evaporation.