Simple Atmospheric Dynamics Foretell Dangerously Hot Future for the Tropics

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Princeton researchers discovered a way to accurately project extreme heat in the tropics under climate change — while better accounting for the point at which heat endangers human health — by looking at the atmospheric dynamics that control the region’s “wet-bulb” temperature, a combination of heat and humidity. Beyond a wet-bulb temperature of 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit), the human body can no longer effectively cool itself. They found that the wet-bulb temperature for the entire tropics is set by the troposphere — the lower atmosphere where weather happens — and that it is likely to increase by 1 degree Celsius with every degree of average warming.

The paper was published in Nature Geoscience by lead author AOS Graduate Student Yi Zhang with AOS Director Stephan Fueglistaler, and Isaac Held, an AOS senior meteorologist.

Read the story on the University homepage.