Friday, 30th September 2022
Breaking News:

Extreme heat, humidity fuel rise in meningitis, cholera, typhoid fever, malaria

By Chukwuma Muanya
19 March 2020   |   3:14 am
The weather is still hot and humid. People can hardly sleep at night without fan or air conditioner, for those that can afford either or both of them.

The weather is still hot and humid. People can hardly sleep at night without fan or air conditioner, for those that can afford either or both of them. Sweating profusely has become the order of the day. You can see people walking on the road drenched in sweat. Face towels and handkerchiefs have become essential commodities.

Indeed, rising global temperatures and humidity are increasing exposure to heat stress, which harms human health, agriculture, the economy and the environment. Most climate studies on projected heat stress have focused on heat extremes but not considered the role of humidity, another key driver.

Humidity is the concentration of water vapour present in the air. Water vapour, the gaseous state of water, is generally invisible to the human eye. Humidity indicates the likelihood for precipitation, dew, or fog to be present.

Heat stress in humans is caused when the one is unable to cool down adequately by means of sweating — leading the body’s temperature to rise dangerously. Body temperature can rise rapidly, and high temperatures may damage the brain and other vital organs. Heat stress ranges from milder conditions like heat rash and heat cramps to heat exhaustion, the most common type. Heatstroke, the most serious heat-related illness, can kill or cause permanent disability without emergency treatment.

Monday Femi Ilevbare, in a study titled “Investigating Effects of Climate Change on Health Risks in Nigeria” and published in IntechOpen said evidence abounds that climate change impacts in Nigeria arise from climate change-related causes such as an increase in temperature, rainfall, sea-level rise, extreme weather events and, especially, increased health risks.

Ilevbare said health risks such as cerebral-spinal meningitis, a cardiovascular respiratory disorder of elderly, skin cancer, malaria, high blood pressure and morbidity were identified as the direct consequences of climate change.

The study concluded that the government should raise awareness on adverse effects of climate change, which is common among vulnerable groups, like women, children and rural dwellers in Nigeria.

According to a Rutgers University, New Jersey, United States (U.S.) study, heat stress from extreme heat and humidity will annually affect areas now home to 1.2 billion people by 2100, assuming current greenhouse gas emissions.

That is more than four times the number of people affected today, and more than 12 times the number who would have been affected without industrial-era global warming.

The research titled “Escalating global exposure to compound heat-humidity extremes with warming” was published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

Senior author Robert E. Kopp, director of the Rutgers Institute of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and a professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, said: “When we look at the risks of a warmer planet, we need to pay particular attention to combined extremes of heat and humidity, which are especially dangerous to human health.”

Lead author Dawei Li, a former Rutgers post-doctoral associate now at the University of Massachusetts, said: “Every bit of global warming makes hot, humid days more frequent and intense. In New York City, for example, the hottest, most humid day in a typical year already occurs about 11 times more frequently than it would have in the 19th century.”

The study looked at how combined extremes of heat and humidity increase on a warming Earth, using 40 climate simulations to get statistics on rare events. The study focused on a measure of heat stress that accounts for temperature, humidity and other environmental factors, including wind speed, sun angle and solar and infrared radiation.

Annual exposure to extreme heat and humidity in excess of safety guidelines is projected to affect areas currently home to about 500 million people if the planet warms by 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) and nearly 800 million at 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). The planet has already warmed by about 1.2 degrees (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) above late 19th century levels.

An estimated 1.2 billion people would be affected with 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming, as expected by the end of this century under current global policies.

In New York City, extreme heat and humidity, comparable to the worst day in a typical year today, is projected to occur on four days in a typical year with global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) and about eight days per year with the warming of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). With 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming, extreme heat and humidity are projected to occur for about 24 days in a typical year.

The paper was co-authored by Jiacan Yuan, a former Rutgers assistant research professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences who is now at Fudan University in China.

A team of climate scientists from Columbia University is warning that higher humidity levels will be a dangerous corollary to rising temperatures as global warming advances over the coming decades, causing heatwaves if measures are not taken to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Hotter air holds more moisture. And most climate change projections have not accounted for these humidity changes, according to Ethan Coffel, a graduate student at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and his colleagues, who authored a recent study on the question in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

And humidity matters. As anyone who has spent the summer in the American southeast knows, humid, muggy heat feels more oppressive than the kind of dry kind experienced in the desert.

That is because air crowded with water molecules stops sweat from evaporating from then skin, impairing the body’s own ability to cool itself.

When the human body is deprived of this natural cooling system, organs can strain and begin to fail, resulting in lethargy, sickness, and even death.

Humidity, therefore, makes hot weather feel much, much worse — which is the guiding principle behind the measurement known as the Heat Index. According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a temperature of 92 degrees Fahrenheit (33.3 degree Celsius) will feel like 94 degrees (34.4 degree Celsius), at a relative humidity level of 40 percent. But it will feel like a scorching 131 degrees if the relative humidity is 90 percent.

The standard way to measure the combined effect of heat and humidity is known as “wet-bulb” temperature, which involves draping a water-saturated cloth over the bulb of a conventional thermometer.

Meanwhile, 5G is safe and poses ‘no health risks’ according to the radiation watchdog the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) – as it sets out to quell rising conspiracy theories about the impact of mobile radiation.

The number of theories about the impact of 5G on the human body has been rising; with some groups claiming it can cause male infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s.

The watchdog found no risks of cancer or other illnesses from exposure to the frequencies used in fifth-generation networks – after studying seven years of data.

They have introduced new guidelines for device manufacturers that limit the use of the highest- 6Ghz – parts of the radio spectrum that could be used for 5G but are not implemented by any carriers in the United Kingdom (UK) or United States of America (USA).

The newly implemented rules are just a ‘slightly higher level of protection than the current guidelines’, according to the Germany-based organisation.

Limits imposed on the 6Ghz part of the frequency spectrum that could be used by mobile networks are slight ‘more conservative limits’ on radiation from handsets.

No currently available 5G phones will be affected by the guideline changes as they already comply with the rules – all future phones will also have to comply.

“We also considered all other types of effects for instance, whether radio waves could lead to the development of cancer in the human body,” ICNIRP’s chairman Dr. Eric van Rongen told the BBC.

“We find that the scientific evidence for that is not enough to conclude that indeed there is such an effect.”

The new regulations are unlikely to have any impact on existing 5G networks.

Meanwhile, an extreme exoplanet where it rains iron and experiences staggering 4,400F (2426.667C) temperatures has been discovered by astronomers 640 light-years from Earth.

It was discovered by researchers from Geneva University in Switzerland using the European Southern Observatory (ESO) Very Large Telescope in Chile.

The planet, named WASP-76b, is a gas giant about twice the size of Jupiter.

It is tidally locked, meaning one side always faces its star and so becomes hot enough to vaporise metal, ripping their molecules apart into atoms.

The atoms then evaporate in the atmosphere and are carried to the night side on “savage winds” caused by the extreme temperature differences across the planet.

Prof. David Ehrenreich, an astronomer at Geneva University in Switzerland, said: “One could say that this planet gets rainy in the evening – except it rains iron.”

Also, scientists have identified nearly 140 new minor planets in the darkness just beyond Neptune’s orbit.

The new findings were made after searching through data gathered by the Dark Energy Survey (DES) – a project focused on investigating the dynamics of the universe’s expansion by mapping the southern sky.

Researchers found a total of 316 minor planets in the data and determined 139 had not been documented before.

These objects ranged in distance from about 30 astronomical units (AU), which is close to Neptune’s orbit, right out to over 90 AU.

The Dark Energy Survey uses technology to map galaxies, detect supernova and find patterns of cosmic structures that help experts learn about the expansion of our universe.

It collected infrared and near-infrared data of the southern sky from 2013 through 2019.

A University of Pennsylvania graduate student Pedro Bernardinelli said: “Dedicated TNO [trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs)] surveys have a way of seeing the object move, and it’s easy to track them down.”