There is a maximum temperature that can be endured by the human body, beyond which you can not go: researchers explain the concept of wet bulb temperature
While heat waves are multiplying around the world, from Canada to the west coast of the United States, even in Italy is growing concern about the possible effects of high temperatures. So, there are many who wonder what is the maximum temperature that the human body can withstand and how to defend themselves.
Once again, what matters is the now well-known relationship that links humidity to the sensation of heat, and now a new study has shed further light on the phenomenon by introducing the concept of wet bulb temperature.
What is wet bulb temperature and why it matters when it's hot
Wet bulb temperature is a theoretical measurement that combines temperature and humidity into a single value, researcher Rachel White of the University of British Columbia explained to ANI. This is the temperature at which water stops evaporating from the bulb of a wet thermometer, so it can no longer cool down.
Why this measurement is important for humans and their relationship to heat is quickly said: it's a metaphor for human sweat. This, in fact, is the body's cooling mechanism that provides humans with immediate relief when the body heats up.
What is the maximum bearable wet bulb temperature
Temperatures, in some parts of the world, have reached as high as 50 degrees Celsius in recent weeks. Yet while you might think these are the maximum tolerable temperatures, you actually have to go even lower in the mercury column.
The key, once again, is in humidity: "A very humid heat wave is much more dangerous than a very dry heat wave," said researcher Rachel White.
In fact, when the atmosphere is completely saturated with water, evaporation and cooling can no longer occur. For a human, then, the maximum wet-bulb temperature that can be reached is 35° C, then a threshold is crossed where internal body heat can no longer be dissipated and cooled.
The new research also found that even lower temperatures can be fatal. Russia, for example, experienced a deadly heat wave even though wet-bulb temperatures never exceeded 28 degrees.
Future scenarios: what may happen with global warming
As global warming continues, temperatures are getting hotter and wetter, University of British Columbia researchers explained. In some parts of the world, particularly in coastal areas near very warm water masses, humid heat is increasing dramatically over the past 41 years. This, the study's authors let it be known, will represent "a major societal challenge" in the coming decades.
"Coping with rising wet-bulb temperatures means that governments will have to issue alerts to citizens urging them to stay indoors in air-conditioned spaces," researcher Al-Abadleh concluded. This, of course, will weigh heavily on energy consumption in the coming years, which is why it will become critical to invest in clean and renewable energy sources.