Monday, February 25, 2013

Hotter, wetter climate slashes labour capacity by 10%, study shows

The Guardian (UK) via Reuters: Earth's increasingly hot, wet climate has cut the amount of work people can do in the worst heat by about 10% in the past six decades, and that loss in labour capacity could double by mid-century, US government scientists reported on Sunday.

Because warmer air can hold more moisture than cooler air, there is more absolute humidity in the atmosphere now than there used to be. And as anyone who has sweltered through a hot, muggy summer knows, it's more stressful to work through hot months when the humidity is high.

To calculate the stress of working in hotter, wetter conditions, experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration looked at military and industrial guidelines already in place for heat stress, and set those guidelines against climate projections for how hot and humid it is likely to get over the next century.

Their findings were stark: "We project that heat stress-related labour capacity losses will double globally by 2050 with a warming climate," said the lead author, John Dunne of NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton.

Work capability is already down to 90% during the most hot and humid periods, Dunne and his co-authors wrote in the journal Nature Climate Change. Using a middle-of-the-road projection of future temperature and humidity, they estimate that could drop to 80% by 2050....

A stonemason from a 1448 illustration, Hausbuch der Mendelschen Zwölfbrüderstiftung, Band 1. Nürnberg 1426–1549. Stadtbibliothek Nürnberg, Amb. 317.2°


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