Wet Bulb: The Temperature Beyond Human Survival (An investigative report by Emu Analytics)

Wet Bulb: The Temperature Beyond Human Survival (An investigative report by Emu Analytics)

At Emu Analytics we normally work with geospatial data that is big, fast, and often in real-time. However, we also undertake geospatial analysis on topics that are of importance to the Emu Team and, we believe, to the wider world. We are passionate about climate change awareness, and as such, we wanted to focus on a phenomenon that has not yet been so widely researched and reported on - but that we think is of vital importance to understand in order to aid the broader adoption of sustainability initiatives - the Wet Bulb phenomenon - the ever-increasing scenario where the high temperature and humidity levels combined make a location uninhabitable for humans. Find our report on this phenomenon available for download down below.

Extreme Heat Scenarios Causing Wet Bulb Temperatures

The current and imminent threat posed by a rapidly changing climate is one of the biggest challenges faced by humanity today. At the start of 2022, Reuters reported that Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires was hit by a major power outage that left thousands of homes without electricity amid a heatwave with temperatures soaring above 40 degrees Celsius. Just days later, BBC reported that Australia equalled the hottest day on record, with 50.7C being reported in a coastal town in South Australia.

 The annual COP26 closed two months ago, with the president of COP26, Alok Sharma, reportedly saying that some progress had been made at the climate summit but “clearly not enough”. The Guardian reported in October of last year that the Earth is already becoming unlivable, citing extreme weather such as hurricanes, wildfires, floods, crop failure due to drought and an ever-increasing rise in temperature, amounting to “oceans alone absorbing the heat equivalent of five Hiroshima atomic bombs dropping into the water every second.”

What is the impact of Wet Bulb?

Aside from these extreme weathers, an underestimated risk scenario caused by climate change is the Wet Bulb State; when the combination of heat and humidity reaches a level where humans are unable to cool down through evaporation. 

Increasingly in recent years, wet bulb temperatures are rising beyond the point of human survival, happening more frequently, and occurring in new locations around the globe – causing Earth’s uninhabitable areas to grow.

In fact, it doesn’t take much for this wet bulb state to occur. A wet bulb temperature of 35°C is thought to be at the limit of human physiology. In reality, death and health impacts can occur at much lower temperatures, particularly without external interventions such as air conditioning. As Reuters reported last week, Argentinian electricity distributors reported the power outages in Buenos Aires as the high temperatures generated a spike in demand for energy to cool homes and businesses, leaving the people of Buenos Aires without means of cooling down.

In our report, we have utilised our LINE platform to visualise and present these insights. One such example is the map below which uses new LINE functionality which allows us to embed LINE maps into blogs, websites and more. In this map you can explore a 100 year return period of wet bulb temperatures:

Our new investigative report analyses and visualise through maps - a number of global risk scenarios of wet bulb temperatures in years to come, such as the urban impact, cities that are most at risk, the impacts of persisting wet bulb conditions, and more. We have produced this report with our findings, with the purpose to inform regulations and interventions to reduce the impact of the expected increasing regularity of the Wet Bulb state.

This report is available for download for free here: The Global Wet Bulb Risk Report by Emu Analytics

Download report

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