Models Predict the Effect of Heat Stress on Workers

A scientific article by researchers at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration uses historical climate data from 1860 and modeling to 2200 to forecast “wet-bulb temperatures” – a heat stress indicator that takes humidity into account. They estimate that if carbon dioxide levels keep rising over the next two centuries, labour capacity during the hottest months will fall from a current level of approximately 90% to 80% by 2050, 63% by 2100 and 39% by 2200, in the worst case scenario. Although the worst effects would be felt in tropical and mid-latitudes, the authors predict that “heat stress in Washington D.C. becomes higher than present-day New Orleans, and New Orleans exceeds present-day Bahrain.”


“Reductions in Labour Capacity From Heat Stress Under Climate Warming”, by John P. Dunne, Ronald J. Stouffer & Jasmin G. John in Nature Climate Change online, February 23, 2013 (abstract free; full article for a fee) at:

A layman’s summary appears in Surprising Science, published by the Smithsonian Institute, at:

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