“Wet-bulb temperature” is a concept you need to know as the planet warms

As previously discussed, we’re the point at which going outside without a cooling suit can be lethal in growing regions of the planet, for growing parts of the year. Wet-bulb temperatures are the condition under which that’s happening currently, and as the video says, they’re becoming more frequent. Keep an eye on the humidity as well as the temperature, because it’s literally a matter of life and death.


  1. xohjoh2n says

    Why do they all talk about wet bulb temperature as if it’s a thing that can exist or not exist, rather than a value that can always be measured?

  2. says

    It seems to be viewed as a sort of on/off thing. Below a certain point, water will evaporate. Above that point, it won’t, even if you’re using a fan or something – your body just heats up with no way to cool off.

    And that’s the point where you get very little warning before you die, because cooling mechanisms simply don’t work.

  3. Allison says

    FWIW, I recall that people who live in particularly hot deserts (Arabia? Sahara?) wear heavy wool clothes to keep the heat out. I don’t think they depend upon evaporation. I’m told, though, that the nights there can be quite cool, so maybe they’re somehow retaining the “coolth” of the night. And of course the places with wildfires don’t cool down at night.

  4. davex says

    The Kim Stanley Robinson book “Ministry for the Future” open with a widespread “wet-bulb event” in India.

    I agree with xohjoh2n on the dislike of the “wet bulb” term. Wet bulb temperature is just a measurement of a wet thermometer bulb, and it’s a sloppy term. I think it would be better to specify something like the 80-85-88-90 °F wet-bulb temperatures thresholds on https://www.weather.gov/akq/wbgt

    The wet bulb temps and thresholds are more measurable and interpretable than the heat index numbers… what will a heat index that “feels like 115°F” mean when climate moves up a few degrees?

  5. sonofrojblake says

    Wet bulb temperature is absolutely NOT a “sloppy term”. It’s a perfectly precise and sensible term that can be used sloppily by people who
    (a) don’t know what they’re talking about and/or
    (b) want to cover something up.

  6. says

    The plants on my balcony were pretty overheated, which made me wonder: How does this affect crops?

    Plants may not be as sensitive as we are, but they still need to regulate their temperature to some degree. If evaporation doesn’t work, watering them won’t do anything. Doesn’t that mean that you can have a drought, even though you have irrigation systems?

    Anyone with a plant background to clarify?

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