“A Crime Against Humanity” — Hothouse Wildfire Smoke Sickens 500,000 As Indonesian Officials Plan For Mass Evacuations

It’s official. In terms of economic damage and human displacement, the 2015 Indonesian wildfires are the worst that Island nation has ever experienced. Worse than even the terrible 1997 wildfires and possibly the worst wildfire disaster ever. And it’s all an upshot of what happens when slash and burn agriculture meets a once lush land now sweltering in a human hothouse world.

* * * *

There’s been something dreadfully wrong with Indonesia’s forests and peatlands ever since massive fires ignited across that island nation back in 1997. Back then, a monster El Nino — combined with heat from massive human greenhouse gas emissions — pushed the world to 0.7 to 0.8 C hotter than 1880s averages. Equatorial temperatures would never again fall to a normal threshold. And as the lands and surrounding oceans warmed, the dry season lengthened and the rainy season shortened.

Slash and burn agriculture, a mainstay practice for the region ever since industrial farms began to take root there in the middle 20th Century, always generated some fires. But before human greenhouse emissions brought on added heat and dryness, the situation was one of slow degradation rather than violent conflagration. Even during the dry season, mid-to-late 20th Century moisture levels were much higher and fires tended to be naturally suppressed by the lush wetness of the region. But now, with the added heat of human warming creating droughts in the peatlands, slash and burn agriculture essentially amounted to throwing burning embers into a powder keg.

Kuala Lumpur

(Kuala Lumpur, Maylasia swelters under peat-fire smog during late September of 2015. Ever since 1997, Indonesia has suffered severe seasonal wildfires. These fires are often set by corporate and individual farmers who use the fires to clear land. However, increased heat and drought caused by an increasingly vicious human-forced warming of the globe are creating a climate in which these fires, once set, tend to rage out of control. Image source: ALERT.)

As the heatwaves and droughts lengthened with amplifying human-forced warming, wildfires became endemic. Each year, the farmers burned more peatlands. Each year, the peatlands belched toxic smoke into the air, burning deeper and deeper into the carbon-rich ground, adding to and compounding the problem of human fossil fuel emissions and causing mass sickness and hospitalizations. In this dangerous new equatorial hothouse climate, even under the rains, the ground still smoldered, waiting for the longer, hotter dry seasons to return before again erupting into flame. All throughout the 2000s and 2010s, the situation worsened as temperatures back-filled into the new upper range set by the 1997 El Nino and then advanced still further.

Now, human greenhouse gas emissions are again amplifying peak global temperatures as a Monster El Nino that threatens to be worse than the 1997 event is sweltering the globe. Now temperatures worldwide are hitting 1 to 1.2 C above 1880s averages. And now the Indonesia wildfires are growing from an annual nation-spanning disaster, to an epic conflagration that threatens to destabilize an entire region.

The Worst Fire on Record, Again

To say that the Indonesian fires this year have been bad may well be the understatement to end all understatements. As of mid October more than 100,000 individual fires had been reported. By late October, damages to the Indonesian economy were estimated to have reached 30 billion dollars (or more than six times the economic impact of the 1997 wildfires). More than 6,000 schools were closed as an international firefighting effort involving an army of 22,000 firefighters proved inadequate to contain the massive-country spanning blazes.

An entire nation fell choking under black, gray, or toxic yellow skies. 500,000 people were reported sick. But not one person among the affected regions’ 43 million residents could pass a day without feeling the dark fingers of the peat smoke squeezing into their chest and lungs, doing untold future damage.

Thousands of miles away, places like Guam were forced to issue air quality alerts as the massive Indonesian smoke cloud was swept across vast swaths of ocean by storms or other weather systems. Indonesia’s peat fire smoke had now become a toxic export and neighboring nations were not at all happy at the vast, dark clouds spreading out from the burning lands.

Indonesia Wildfires

(Satellite shot of a smoke covered Indonesia on October 26 of 2015. Due to a combination of human forced warming of the globe and a Monster El Nino, Indonesia’s current record spate of wildfires could continue to burn until December. As of now, extremely hazardous air quality has Indonesian officials planning mass evacuations from smoke filled regions to hospitals and even to ships off shore. Image source: LANCE MODIS.)

The situation has gotten so bad that Indonesia has now set in place mass evacuation plans for the hardest hit regions. The government has distributed 7,000 air purifiers as part of its ‘shelter in place’ program. But for those who simply cannot manage the stifling airs, authorities are planning for transport into hospitals and, if that doesn’t work, to military, hospital, and converted cruise vessels waiting off shore. Government actions, in this case, speak louder than the official words. What they may as well be saying is that, for an ever-growing number of Indonesian citizens, human-forced climate change and slash and burn agriculture has rendered the land uninhabitable.

A Crime Against Humanity

Sutopo Puro Nugroho, the spokesperson for the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency neatly summed it up by stating: “This is a crime against humanity of extraordinary proportions…” The official then went on to state that now was not the time to point fingers. Now was the time to attempt to save lives.

And he’s right. The time to point fingers was years and years ago, before this disaster began to fully unfold. Back then, in the late 20th Century we had a chance to address the endemic corruption of political and economic systems made to depend on dangerous and amoral industries. But at least now we can acknowledge what should have been said long ago — slash and burn agriculture, in this case, joins with the fossil fuel industry to form what could best be described as a global climate crimes syndicate. One whose dark fruits are now coming into an ugly ripeness over Indonesia.

For this year, there’s no neat end in sight. This year, the rainy season may be delayed until at least December. And until that time the hothouse stoked, slash and burn lit fires will continue to belch their awful fume, continue to stifle Indonesia’s inhabitants, continue to add more greenhouse gasses to an already sweltering atmosphere. That is, until the rains do come. And when they do, it’s just a six month wait for another ridiculous burning season, a 1-6 year wait for another new fire-worsening global temperature record, and a 7-20 year wait for another monster El Nino. In the end, the final wait until all of Indonesia’s peatlands are burned may be as little as 30-100 years. A once lush and forested land turning to ruin before our very eyes.


Indonesia’s Fires Labeled ‘A Crime Against Humanity

Indonesia Fire Season Puts Chokehold on Record Books

Indonesia Under Fire

Choking Smoke — The Growing Curse of Indonesia’s Wildfires

Top 10 Devastating Wildfires


Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

Hat Tip to DT Lange

Hat Tip to Greg

Leave a comment


  1. For more insight into the problem in Indonesia, watch http://www.channelnewsasia.com/tv/tvshows/getreal-s14/heart-of-the-haze/2206108.html. It is almost 50 minutes long, but it is worth watching, IMO, if you want real insight. Such fires are a risk where I live, and the last bad year was 2010, when there were hundreds. I feel for the people where there are thousands.

    • 50 minutes and not one mention of climate related influences. Unfortunate, and not unexpected, but they’re not telling the whole story here.

    • Please see:

      “Large areas of mixed savanna-woodlands in dry tropical zones of Africa, South America, Australia, and large areas of tropical humid forests burn every year (WRI, 2000). These fires are part of the natural seasonal cycle of growth, decay, and combustion and are ignited by lightning strikes. However, humans have long played a significant role in modifying fire regimes by changing the season and frequency of burning and consequently vegetation composition and structure (Goldammer and Price, 1998). During the 1990s in tropical humid areas, major fires have occurred in the Brazilian Amazon, Mexico, and Indonesia (Kalimantan and Sumatra) and were particularly severe in 1997-1998 during an El Niño episode (FAO, 1997a; Nepstad et al., 1999). Fire also is a serious threat to native forests in many parts of tropical and nontropical developing countries. China, for example, suffered large losses in a single fire event in 1987, with 1 Mha (Anon., 1987) to 1.3 Mha (Cahoon et al., 1994) burned. Fire prevention and suppression capability depends on available infrastructure such as imagery, roads, machinery, and human capital. In general, developed countries are better able to manage fire in regions with roads; developing countries may lack one or all of the factors.

      The Indonesian fires of 1997-1998 were associated with a significant, but not unique, drought over much of the region. Estimates of the area burned vary from 96,000 ha to more than 8 Mha (Harwell, 2000). Most of this area was not forest but scrub, grassland, and agricultural lands. The most persistent fires were seven clusters of fires along the edges of degraded peat-swamp forests in southern Sumatera and Kalimantan (Legg and Laumonier, 1999). The extent and persistence of these fires, and similar fires in Brazil, show the importance of interaction between climate and human actions in determining the structure and composition of tropical forests, land-use patterns, and carbon emissions.”


      Part of the thing that’s odd about this year is that fires are occurring all throughout the peatland, not just in areas that have been disturbed by development. And the fire regime is now an annual event where in the past it was more sporadic. The issue is that as the region gets hotter and drier and the dry season lengthens, new areas open up to fire vulnerability. In addition, the added pressure of development greatly enhances the fire pressure for the region.

      Stopping development in the peat region would certainly help. But if you keep warming the region. If you keep adding length to the dry season in more and more major events, then you get the fires eventually. Just not quite as fast as with this really rough combo of human forced warming and slash and burn.

  2. Syd Bridges

     /  October 26, 2015

    The destruction of some of the last great jungles for biofuels is perhaps the most mendacious greenwash of all. The carbon released will never be offset by the “renewable” palm oil. Like cutting down south eastern forests in the US to feed Cameron’s greenwash in the Drax power station, it is committing a worse atrocity to claim mitigation of another heinous atrocity.

    Incidentally, I see that Nino 3.4 has reached 2.5 C on NOAA’s weekly update.

    • Fossil fuel burning is at the heart of this problem. Development and land use an accessory that compounds it, making it far worse and speeding the destruction of natural lands. Take all the farming industry away but keep burning fossil fuels and these forests still burn. That’s the story that’s not being told here. You can’t heat the equator like we have without increasing rates of burning in the rain and peat forests. So yes, we need to stop slash and burn agriculture there. But don’t also stop burning fossil fuels and those peatlands will burn.

  3. Yes, it is criminal – as well as endemic.
    Thanks for bringing it to the forefront, Robert.
    This sort of thing is much a part of of our social, corporate, or civil government’s fabric.
    Whether it be kick-backs, outright brutality, theft, or enforced incompetence — it exists.

  4. – Union of Concerned Scientists:

    How Many Products with Palm Oil Do I Use in a Day?

    I’ve heard it. You’ve heard it. We’ve all heard it. In fact, I’ve even written it, “While most U.S. consumers have never gone to the supermarket and purchased a bottle of palm oil directly, as they would, say, canola or olive oil, chances are good that they use a product containing palm oil every day.”

  5. Fantastic post again, Robert. The fact that smoke reached all the way to Guam was influenced by Typhoons Koppu and Champi according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.


    Insult to injury: Godzilla El Nino exacerbating the fire situation, and also making for a hyperactive Pacific cyclone season that siphons smoke into Melanesia. The way these events are piling up one after the other is insane.

  6. Thank you Robert for another great post.

    “Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey and key academic partners have quantified how rapidly ancient permafrost decomposes upon thawing and how much carbon dioxide is produced in the process.

    These rates are among the fastest permafrost decomposition rates that have been documented. It is the first study to link rapid microbial consumption of ancient permafrost soil-derived dissolved organic carbon to the production of carbon dioxide.

    An important implication of the study for aquatic ecosystems is that dissolved organic carbon released by thawing yedoma permafrost will be quickly converted to carbon dioxide and emitted to the atmosphere from soils or small streams before it can be transported to major rivers or coastal regions.”


    • uilyam

       /  October 27, 2015

      The PNAS paper by Drake et al. is open-access: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2015/10/21/1511705112.full.pdf?with-ds=yes (8 pages including supplementary information).

      “Northern permafrost soils store a vast reservoir of carbon, nearly twice that of the present atmosphere. Current and projected climate warming threatens widespread thaw of these frozen, organic carbon (OC)-rich soils. Upon thaw, mobilized permafrost OC in dissolved and particulate forms can enter streams and rivers, which are important processors of OC and conduits for carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere. Here, we demonstrate that ancient dissolved organic carbon (DOC) leached from 35,800 y B.P. permafrost soils is rapidly mineralized to CO2. During 200-h experiments in a novel high–temporal-resolution bioreactor, DOC concentration decreased by an average of 53%, fueling a more than sevenfold increase in dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) concentration. Eighty-seven percent of the DOC loss to microbial uptake was derived from the low–molecular-weight (LMW) organic acids acetate and butyrate. To our knowledge, our study is the first to directly quantify high CO2 production rates from permafrost-derived LMW DOC mineralization. The observed DOC loss rates are among the highest reported for permafrost carbon and demonstrate the potential importance of LMW DOC in driving the rapid metabolism of Pleistocene-age permafrost carbon upon thaw and the outgassing of CO2 to the atmosphere by soils and nearby inland waters.”

      See Figure 2 in the paper for a clear conceptual illustration of why current estimates of release of CO2 to the atmosphere from thawing yedoma permafrost may siginificantly underestimate the potential rate of release.

  7. Colorado Bob

     /  October 26, 2015

    Wildfires decimate orangutans in Indonesia

    The early morning air of the Indonesian rainforest is hazy with smoke. Staff of the charity International Animal Rescue (IAR) breathe through cloth masks as they search for a dehydrated — and possibly dying — orangutan and her infant spotted the previous night.


  8. Reblogged this on GarryRogers Nature Conservation and Science Fiction (#EcoSciFi) and commented:
    Recovery of these tropical forests through the natural processes of ecological succession may not occur because of the intensity and large size of the fires. High intensity destroys buried propagules and soil microorganisms; large size slows propagule dispersal from surrounding unburned sites. An additional problem is that initial pioneer vegetation on burned sites is often highly flammable. This can increase fire frequency and prevent recovery of long-lived native plants.

  9. Ryan in New England

     /  October 26, 2015

    Great post, Robert. This is a tragic situation, for wildlife, the forests, fellow humans, and the climate. I know you wrote there are over 100,000 fires burning, but do you happen to have a figure regarding approximate acres burned? I apologize if you mentioned it and I missed it.

  10. Apologies if this link has already been posted –

    “World set to use more energy for cooling than heating –
    Rising demand for air conditioning and refrigeration threatens to make planet hotter and undermine pledges to rein in emissions .”

    Sounds like a massive positive feedback to me.


    • Steven Blaisdell

       /  October 27, 2015

      As far as I’m concerned, the almost universal, unthinking acceptance of AC as a 24/7/365 ‘necessity’, as an unquestioned entitlement of 21st century human existence, tells me all I need to know about whether humans will burn the planet to a crisp. It is the dying junkie selling his liver for a fix. We are, as a species, yeast with forebrains; consume and reproduce, consume and reproduce. Crank the AC, willya? It’s hot out there…….

  11. Griffin

     /  October 27, 2015

    Great post on this horrible situation Robert. I have seen some comments online that have tried to quantify the total GHG emissions from this year’s event, but I don’t know how accurate they are. Do you (or anyone else) have an idea on just how much we have seen in emissions here?

  12. Griffin. I posted those stats to corroborate with SG’s post pointing to them.


    • Griffin

       /  October 27, 2015

      I just keep thinking about the boost in carbon from these fires. When combined with the boost in temps that El Nino is already bringing, makes for a bad combination. Robert’s comments about us being closer in time to 1.5C than many realize, seem awful prescient.

  13. Andy in SD

     /  October 27, 2015

    “Future temperature in southwest Asia projected to exceed a threshold for human adaptability”

    Something bad this way comes…..


  14. Colorado Bob

     /  October 27, 2015

    A frontal depression has brought unseasonably unsettled weather to much of the eastern Mediterranean.

    The northern portion of the depression brought very heavy rain across Turkey.

    Through Thursday and Friday, 246mm of rain fell in Marmaris on the south coast. This is five times as much rain as would normally be expected during the entire month of October.


  15. Sustainable SG

     /  October 27, 2015

    Hi Robert,

    Congratulations on another great post where you have cobbled together data and news articles from the other side of the world into a compelling and fact based article. You have a real gift in connecting the dots and writing, and I would love to see you writing articles for magazines like NatGeo, The Atlantic etc.

    Just like to make a few comments:

    a. The Indonesians will be under tremendous pressure at the Paris climate talks because of the GHG emissions from the forest fires. Unfortunately, the current President Joko Widodo (while well-meaning and has a clean reputation) does not have aspirations to be an international statesman and environmentalist like the previous President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, so it is unlikely that international censure will mean a lot to him. Domestically, the Indonesians are very focused on growing the palm oil industry as a means of economic development. Until these recent fires, the rhetoric coming out of the Indonesian govt was that persistent NGO campaigns against palm oil and deforestation could be construed as running afoul of Indonesian law, presumably as an act of economic sabotage.

    b. Hence you see proposals like in the link below where Indonesia plans to mandate the use of aviation biofuel by 2018. The biofuel of course will be mainly from palm oil. Now I am not anti-palm oil per se. It is a very versatile oil with no viable replacement and it is extremely land productive. To produce the same amount of oil using rapeseed, sunflower or soybean would simply mean a massive net increase in deforestation somewhere else. But the Indonesian aviation biofuel proposal will almost certainly spur an increase in deforestation. Already, if you examine the MODIS hotspot data, you will see areas like Papua burning. This has never happened before. These are new virgin forests cut down for palm oil and pulp and paper plantations.


    c. In short, while the idea of aviation biofuels is a good one, the choice of palm oil as a biofuel is terrible. Indonesia would be much better off making jet fuel from the gasification of municipal solid waste (MSW). Like most developing countries, it has a terrible MSW disposal and treatment problem and MSW is a good carbon-rich source of feedstock. Yet these are the sorts of misguided (perhaps deliberately so) policy decisions being made as “solutions” to climate change.

    d. I also want to highlight that the burning in Southeast Asia is not confined to Indonesia. Beginning at the end of January, farmers start to slash and burn in northern Indochina (northern Thailand, Laos, Myanmar). If you Google news reports of haze in northern Thailand (e.g. Chiangmai in Jan and Feb), you will see they suffer from the same air pollution. The fires then move south with the dry season, reaching Riau (Sumatra) in June and eventually South Sumatra by August/September before ending in November with the start of the rainy season. The burning season is therefore almost year round. If you run an animation of MODIS hotspot data, you can see the pattern. My worry is that the big agribusinesses from Indonesia are setting up shop as Myanmar opens up, and the same extent of fires and forest destruction we see in Indonesia will soon be repeated in northern Indochina.

    e. On the comment upthread about the Channel News Asia documentary not mentioning climate change as a contributing factor, I think few people as yet connect a monster El Nino with climate change. The good thing is that there are no professional climate change deniers here in Singapore. I know most of the journalists covering the environment space and they are well aware of the impact of climate change and have written many good articles.

    • I’m surprised the Indonesians and others haven’t looked at the indoor vertical farming solution for palm oil. It’s already a land efficient plant. Why not greatly reduce the deforestation link by further reducing this crops’ land footprint by a factor of about 5. The primary challenge would be breeding the plants to be smaller in size. Certainly doable with current methods.

      I’d also like to see the peat lands protected from development. From a land use perspective, growing palm on non peat lands looks like a better proposition. Heck why not a mixed use of urban spaces across the country for Palm production?

      I honestly don’t think we’ve even begun to exhaust potential modifications to the production chain in order to greatly reduce impacts.

      • Sustainable SG

         /  October 28, 2015

        Land is cheap in Indonesia. And they have vast forests in Papua and Sulawesi that are just being opened up. The Indonesian govt is now trying to stop further development on peatland by withdrawing licences on unused peatlands and stopping the issuance of new licences, but I am not hopeful. Already there are multiple laws to protect peatland except that none are enforced. Ultimately that is the problem with Indonesia.

        Palm oil is one of the few crops that grow well on the acidic soil of drained peatlands. Since Indonesia is hell bent on developing palm oil as an export industry, it is always going to view peatlands as an unexploited resource, UNLESS the world puts a price on carbon and a value on avoided deforestation.

        There’s no shortage of money going into Indonesia. The Norwegians had a US$1 billion REDD fund for Indonesia but it was hardly used because the Indonesians could never assure the required level of compliance monitoring.

        At the end of the day, the whole system in Indonesia is broken and corrupt. And life is cheap. That’s why the burning takes place year after year. Until the ruling class in Jakarta choke under the haze (which they don’t because of wind direction), Sumatra and Kalimantan are merely “Outer Territories” to be exploited.

      • Vertical indoor farming can be combined with residential housing, in the form of Austrian architect Huntertwassre’s concept of Tree Tenants: basically the exterior and interior atrium surfaced of an apartment skyscraper can be outfitted with numerous niches, wherein dwarf or juvenile palm trees can be grown, and the fronds can cover the surface of the building, providing 100% natural air-conditioning using zero electricity.

  16. T-rev

     /  October 27, 2015

    While I agree the fires are repugnant, as Robert states they are ‘exacerbated’ by El Nino and made worse again by climate change, a double multiplier if you will.. Indonesia is not really responsible for the latter, their per person emissions are negligible globally over the last 50 years, that being said, their goal is to emit like the west.. So, historically, blame for climate change really needs to be levelled at the nations with profligate emissions per person.

    As to palm oil, it’s a very efficient plant for making vegetable oil. If we didn’t use the oil palm, our land use would have to significantly increase to grow whatever substitute we want to consume as a vegetable oil. As ‘dtlange’ alludes to above, it’s in so much of what WE use. It’s not good enough to swap your cookies out for ones sans palm oil, for something containing another sort of vegetable oil because of that efficiency. You need to completely modify your behavior as consumers (no processed foods etc) to make a dint, and that will never happen.

    Don’t get me wrong, on a personal level I have mitigated my emissions (no driving, flying for holidays, we use only solar power being off the grid) and modified our lifestyle. I don’t use shampoo (went ‘no poo 5 years ago, took a month to get used to it and have my hair not respond to being stripped of oil every night) and we grow and cook lots of our own food. We live in a rural area a lo g way from shops and don’t consume much in the way of processed foods eg my occasional cookies use butter from a cow down the road (albeit pasture fed but methane is still an issue)

    My point ? all of this is demand side driven. Politicians will not stop you buying cookies from General Mills etal, so you need to, then you need to vote for politicians who take all of this seriously. We seem to be stuck at voting for politicians we know don’t take it seriously and then occasional blaming them for acting true to form. Who’s ‘to blame’ ? Look out the window, anyone driving to work, flying for holidays, importing processed foods from across the world and voting the same politicians into power.

  17. Matt

     /  October 27, 2015

    Excellent article as usual Robert! I commented a few posts ago in relation to the heat build up in Australia “Ominous signs for this El Nino summer. As an example Marble Bar (as some may know as the record holder of the most consecutive days over 100F) is averaging 40.7C which is already 3C above its average October temperature and has had the last 16 days (starting from Sept 30) all above 100F. For the record, when Marble Bar set the record amount of days over 100F the run of 160 days started on October 31.”

    As an update October (up to the 26th) is now averaging 41.4C and has had 28 days in a row including today’s above 100F, with forecasts of 41C, 42C, 43C, 44C, 44C, 43C taking the station to Nov 2nd. Large slow moving high pressure systems are dominating the SE of the country already, which normally start way later in the year. My home city is on target to record an October average within 1 C of what we would expect in the hottest summer months of Jan-Feb.

    I don’t see any way we will be able to control this years fire season, doing my regular bushwalking, the eucalypt forests are in a condition typical of mid January, and the oil content of those trees are incredible. It will be a miracle if the record fire season you have all witnessed in the NH, the Amazon and now in SE Asia is not repeated here. Are we prepared??? No way! There has been virtually no coverage of these events in our media! People are complacent, ignorant of what is going on around them and living in denial.

    Today’s El Nino Update from the BOM sees the SOI index at -20 and NINO 3.4 increasing from positive 2.1C to 2.2C anomaly over the past two weeks.

  18. Thanks again Robert – meanwhile in a a remote region of the Planet El Nino is hard at work – Finally we’re seeing more articles in papers saying El Nino ‘almost certain’ – VERY right wing govt here – we were the last country to declare EN. Re fires on October 8 much of NZ’s South Island East Coast (about 600 km long) experienced a crossover event (ambient humidity and temperature have same numbers) of about 27C – quite rare here, haven’t had a bad one for many years and then two weeks later has another one – first one resulted in 35 fires and much more property damage than usual. East coast in serious water deficit with very little rain now since June 2014! two successive dry winters. One third of the worlds hort seed (radish, lettuce etc) is grown in this area.

  19. Ryan in New England

     /  October 27, 2015

    I know Robert has written about the 35C wet bulb threshold, how it is lethal to humans, and how it’s a limit that will likely be exceeded in future years. This article from The Guardian points out the fact that our future will contain regions that have been rendered uninhabitable by extreme heat and humidity.


    At WBTs above 35C, the high heat and humidity make it physically impossible for even the fittest human body to cool itself by sweating, with fatal consequences after six hours. For less fit people, the fatal WBT is below 35C. A WBT temperature of 35C – the combination of 46C heat and 50% humidity – was almost reached in Bandar Mahshahr in Iran in July 2015.

    The scientists used standard climate computer models to show that the fatal WBT extremes would occur every decade or two after 2070 along most of the Gulf coast, if global warming is not curbed. Using the normal measure of temperature, the study shows 45C would become the usual summer maximum in Gulf cities, with 60C being seen in places like Kuwait City in some years.

    Near the Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia, where Mecca and Jeddah lie, the WBT is not projected to pass the fatal 35C level, but would be 32C or 33C. This would make the Hajj extremely hazardous, said the scientists. “One of the rituals of Hajj – the day of Arafah – involves worshipping at the site outside Mecca from sunrise to sunset. In these kind of conditions, it would be very hard to have outside rituals,” said Eltahir.

    What’s it like living in today’s Gulf heatwaves

    Growing up in Dubai in the Gulf, the thing I looked forward to the most every summer was leaving.

    Summer meant going back to my birthplace in Alexandria in Egypt, but it also meant getting away from temperatures that could hit a hellish 50C, when going to the beach wasn’t an option, unless you enjoyed scorching your soles in the sand to swim in tepid seawater while burning your skin in the blazing sun.

    Summer is something you work around in the Gulf. You try to ensure your time spent outside is kept to a minimum because the high humidity of seaside cities, such as Dubai, will leave your clothes soaking wet within minutes. It means an intricate hop from air-conditioned site to air-conditioned site – your apartment to your car to the supermarket or the shopping mall or a friend’s similarly temperature-controlled abode. It means never having to use a water heater because your shower will always be hot – even scaldingly so if you dare to take one at midday.

    Now that the holy month of Ramadan falls in the summer, whenever I’m back visiting family I try to keep daytime waking hours, when I have to abstain from drinking water, to a bare minimum. I’ve completed the hajj and the lesser pilgrimage, the umra – the former in the cool February climate and the latter in the heat of summer. I cannot imagine handling the crush of millions of pilgrims marching around the ka’aba in the Grand Mosque during a heatwave.

    The summer can be insufferable in other places in the region for different reasons. While this year it was relatively mild in Beirut, where I live now, for example, it is always accompanied by water shortages and extended power cuts for days on end, leaving you with little choice but to pay for an expensive generator subscription to preserve perishables such as meat or dairy for more than a day, or sleeping on the ceramic tiles to cool off. This year it was also accompanied by piles of rotting trash baking in the sun after the government’s chronic failures were extended to garbage collection.

    This isn’t a problem in the Gulf, where save for a freak power cut the constant electricity supply maintains a climate-controlled habitat. I was a bit incredulous when Qatar was awarded the World Cup hosting rights – I hadn’t been able to play football outside of an air-conditioned indoor pitch in the summer since God knows how long.
    Kareem Shaheen in Beirut

  20. FRONT PAGE…online article this morning at NY Times…on the melting of Greenland.

    With a comment section….I urge all here to read article, then share their thoughts. We have a lot of smart people on this site who could “enlighten” the masses with their knowledge on the subject of Global Warming.

  21. Damage to farms and crops hampers Typhoon Koppu recovery in Philippines


  22. Colorado Bob

     /  October 27, 2015

    When ‘nuisance flooding’ is part of a city’s vocabulary, there’s a problem

    Conferences about climate change tend to focus on atmospheric molecules and energy density, but an interestingly different conversation this past weekend in Hampton centered on building codes and cigarettes.

    Cigarettes? I’ll get to that in a minute.

    The conference was called Rising Tides 2015, and it tried to sidestep the political differences that make climate discussions so contentious by concentrating on high-water problems in coastal cities throughout the country. You wouldn’t believe how many times I heard somebody say “flooding doesn’t care whether you’re Republican or Democrat.”


  23. Greg

     /  October 27, 2015

    Jeff Masters latest comment. Indonesia just tied its all time high “On Tuesday, the airport station at Semarang, Indonesia, soared to a high of 39.5°C (103.1°F). This ties the national record for the hottest temperature ever observed in Indonesia, set in Cirebon Jatiwangi in 2006.


  24. – If it’s in the air you breathe, smoke or FF — watch out.
    – I’ll vouch for the below — as when I stopped working in a shopping-center bookstore, my lung capacity increased 15%. Your ‘average’ shopping-center parking lot is nothing more than a slow motion traffic jam.
    Shopping-center workers are at extreme risk.

    ‘Air pollution stunting children’s lungs, study finds’

    A six-year study finds children living in highly polluted parts of cities have up to 10 per cent less lung capacity than normal, with warnings the damage could be permanent


    • – N Again: underscore ‘reactive’ – add ‘volatile’… ‘acidic’. Put FF at the top of the toxic pyramid.
      – eutrophication: We may just be going a little too ‘green’.

      On Friday, October 16, a Southern Californian regional air district committee met with the South Coast Air Quality Management District to discuss plans concerning nitrogen oxide emission reduction.

      Both nitrous acid and nitric acid are categorized as nitrogen oxides (NOx), which are a group of highly reactive gases. When left unchecked, these gases can “irritate the lungs” and “lower resistance to respiratory infections such as influenza,” says the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

      According to the EPA, NOx contribute to ozone formation and can have adverse effects on both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Immoderate long-term environmental exposure may result in consequences like eutrophication — the fertilization of nitrogen and phosphorous — in coastal waters and ozone depletion in the air.

    • – From O-zone to dead zone to OH- No! in only a few decades.

  25. Greg

     /  October 27, 2015

    The fires in Indonesia are obvious in this Daily Copernicus CO2 world map but where is the reporting regarding the Amazon which appears even worse?

  26. Greg

     /  October 27, 2015

    • Some of those highlights seem to be in the arch of fire (the most human-deforested part of the Amazon)… but the whitest parts are over Pantanal Wetlands (they seem to be over Paraguay, and Mato Grosso do Sul). Some of the whitest parts seem actually to be over Itaipu dam.

      Pantanal is suffering a lot with the drought, and wetlands and dams (remember – removing trees, buildings and such from the soon-to-be-lake before completing a dam was never a policy in Brasil, and some of our dams have a heavy in organic load) may be leaking more methane than usual. There’s also a huge problem with glyfosate poisoning in the pantanal rivers (from soy farming upriver. Pantanal is a rare place in Earth – soy farmers are the most enviromental damaging and cattle-ranchers are the ones trying to fight for conservation around there) causing some massive vegetation death downriver, but news about it are heavily edited (those soy farmers are governors and senators, and a HUGE political force in Brasil) and I can’t seem to find any articles about it in english. Pollution problems also got worse with the drought (less water to dillute pollutants).

      This is mostly an educated guess about why so much CO2 coming from those parts, there’s not been much media coverage about it here in Brasil neither.

      • Greg

         /  October 28, 2015

        Umbrios, where exactly are you? I follow Vox Mundi who does some excellent coverage of ongoing environmental and political challenges in Brazil. Terrible how political weakness/corruption leads to so much additional suffering:
        “The Dilma government continues to make cuts in social programs, and the ‘Water for All’ program was not spared. In August, the program began to show problems when the contract for the construction of 33,000 tanks (that would benefit 165,000 people in Bahia, Ceará, Piauí and Minas Gerais) was canceled due to default by the government to suppliers, debt was R $ 350 million:

  27. Greg

     /  October 27, 2015

    It does not match the water deficit which is highest in the north.

    • Colorado Bob

       /  October 27, 2015

      Greg the mouth of the Amazon –

      13:50 UTC

      I’ll see if I can get the rest of Brazil.

      • Colorado Bob

         /  October 27, 2015

        2 days ago , Southwest of the above shot –
        14:05 UTC

      • Greg

         /  October 27, 2015

        Thank you CB. Not a hint those fires showing up from Belem and environs but your link below appears to be the source. Side note: I high tailed it out of Belem (truly the coleo-rectal area of Brazil) after doing some assistant research, read graduate slave labor, there after the forest chiggers ate me up until I looked like a tomato, the sunblock I used to then relax on the beach in my new Brazilian thong-like swimsuit turned out to be coconut oil, and the gallon or so of tea I took from the clinic refrigerator, after dehydration, turned out to be a medicinal laxative. Worse… journey.. home…ever.

    • Hi Greg,

      I’m an enviromental criminologist in Brasil’s Federal Police (that’s how I’ve learned about vegetation die-offs caused by glifosate in Pantanal, a few of my co-workers from Mato Grosso do Sul mentioned those cases to me last August, but as far as I known, none of those was mentioned in anything more than a few enviromental blogs in Portuguese). I live in Mairiporã, a small rural/dormitory city in the suburb of São Paulo (in the Cantareira mountains, actually there’s one headwater of one of the rivers that fuel the Cantareira reservoir in my home farm), and work in São Paulo proper.

      And yes, corruption problems are agravating the crisis a lot here in Brasil. Being in the police makes things even more frustating, as we have been seeing how bad things are for a while, even before elections and reelections of some of the current politicians, but professional sigil forbids us from alerting the media. But then again, a lot of those previous investigations are now bearing fruit.:)

  28. Greg

     /  October 27, 2015

    I can’t tell if the major source appears to be from Savanna or mixed forest south

  29. Greg

     /  October 27, 2015

    South of those fires they are getting more than they want of rain now
    ‘Brazil Floods – Over 200,000 Affected in Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul’

    • River of moisture situation.

    • Greg, the southern Brasil wasn’t affected by the drought of these last years. Actually it has been hit by more rain than it’s normal for a while (they had floods last year also), and this beggining of raining season has been abnormal in the “too much rain” side again (an effect expected by global warning models).

  30. -File Under: Air and Water — and the ‘match that lights’.

    ‘Hurricane Patricia, More Pacific Storms, and 4 Other Signs of El Niño’

    A strong El Niño is raising Pacific Ocean temperatures, affecting everything from the fish we eat to how diseases spread.

    Even before Hurricane Patricia lashed into Mexico this weekend, the central Pacific Ocean had already been flogged by a record number of tropical storms. Give some credit to El Niño.

    As this year’s strong El Niño raises ocean temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific, it appears to be following a classic pattern of acting both as a match that helps ignite tropical storms and as gasoline that makes them grow stronger.

  31. Not meaning to “beat a dead horse”…but I hope some of you have taken the time to read and comment to the NY Times front page article on the “Melting of Greenland”. I just feel as though each time the mainstream media danes to actually shine a light on the crisis…it is important that for those of us who pay daily attention to the matter..to lend our voices.

    I feel quite inadequate to comment on such articles in comparison to so many of you here who are so much better versed on the subject of Global Warming. I just feel as though it is important for those of us that are paying attention should do our utmost to share our knowledge when the opportunities arise…like a front page article at the NY Times.

    I would stand on a street corner everyday and just scream “Wake up..man made global warming is real…and is killing our planet and us”….if I thought it would make any difference. In the meantime…scouring the internet and sharing my thoughts on the subject wherever I find an article on the subject…is the best I can do for now to get it into our fellow humans consciousness.

    Just a thought…..Thanks for letting me rant a bit..:)


    • Wharf Rat

       /  October 27, 2015

      thanks for ranting

      • Thank you….If you only knew how difficult it was for this introvert to even muster enough courage to voice her opinion among friends….Thanks..:)

    • Ryan in New England

       /  October 28, 2015

      Thank you Suzanne. That’s a good article by the NY Times and very pleasing to see it on the front page.

    • Too much blithering about taxpayer dollars and not enough focus on how important and essential this research is.

      • And if the Oval Office falls into GOP hands you can count on *all* climate research being put to a halt, including the Keeler Curve’s raw data, in favor of more tax cuts for the rich and corporations, and more money for the Security – Intelligence – Military – Industrial Complex.

        And yet we can’t count on the Dems stopping the madness, only slowing it down, as a brake. And the brake’s wearing out.

  32. Colorado Bob

     /  October 27, 2015

    The new study, “Report predicts temperatures too hot for humans in Persian Gulf” is getting much attention . Thanks to RS, I when and got 3 examples of this effect killing people this year in May , June, and July .
    Extreme temperatures kill more than 2,000 people in India’s second deadliest heat wave
    Sunday 31 May 2015
    On Saturday and Sunday temperatures in the states ranged between 45C and 47C, about 3C to 7C higher than normal, according to the meteorological centre in the Telangana state capital of Hyderabad.

    Wet Bulb at 33 C — Human Hothouse Kills Nearly 800 in Pakistan
    June 24, 2015
    Human-forced warming of the global climate system is pushing sea surface temperatures in some areas to a maximum of 33 C. Extreme ocean warming that is increasing the amount of latent heat the atmosphere can deliver to human bodies during heatwaves. And near a 33 C sea surface hot zone, the past few days have witnessed extreme heat and related tragic mass casualties in Sindh, Pakistan.

    Killing Heat — It Felt Like 165 Degrees in Iran Today
    July 31, 2015
    In Iran it was 115 degrees Fahrenheit today (46 C). Add in humidity and the heat index was a stunning 165 F (74 C). But what they really should be concerned about is the wet bulb reading…

  33. Colorado Bob

     /  October 27, 2015

    Low-lying Alexandria is also vulnerable to increased salination, or saltwater intrusions on agricultural lands and freshwater resources, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

    My link at # 91 .

    These mass migrations we are seeing are just the tip of the spear . The Nile Delta is the breadbasket of the country, and Egypt is the largest wheat importer in the world. It’s no accident that in 2010 when Russia and Ukraine lost their crop. The fires in North Africa, and the Mid East had gasoline dumped on them. The next year came the Syrian civil war fueled by the worst drought in modern time there, 4 years long.

    Believe me , Politics and “weather”. are one and the same these days.

    Politics and “weather”.

    Egypt: Alexandria flooding may be new norm because of climate change

    An unseasonable rainstorm in the Egyptian city of Alexandria dumped nearly 10 inches of rain in two days last week, killing six people and turning the Mediterranean port city’s streets into rushing rivers. As the rains continued over the weekend, they also claimed a political victim: the region’s newly elected governor, Hany el-Missiry.

    My link at # 91 .


  34. Colorado Bob

     /  October 27, 2015

    • – Very instructive about terrible man caused devastation.
      – People really should at least get N95 Pm masks,
      Bold researchers wear them — or something like it.

  35. Colorado Bob

     /  October 27, 2015

    The peat on Indonesia is thousands of years old , and we are unlocking very old dragons. The permafrost of Siberia is even much older. And that is in play.

    Nature is a not a line . it is an explosion.

    • Have to agree here. The Indonesian fires are bad. But they’re getting quite a bit of attention. How about the Amazon rainforest fires, the tundra fires, the permafrost peat bog fires? These are just as bad or, in some cases, worse.

  36. Colorado Bob

     /  October 27, 2015

    The Tundra is on Fire
    By Colorado Bob
    Sat Sep 29, 2007 6:39 AM

    I have been watching fires for several years , Poking the Dargon has got us into really deep trouble.


    • – Tundra, you say? Toyota Tundra?
      In America it has many … (gasp)… meanings:

      • – They aren’t called ‘monster’ trucks for nothing.
        And the term just may be applied to those who design,build, and buy them.
        But then again there is Chevrolet Avalanche:

    • Colorado Bob

       /  October 27, 2015

      Tuesday morning’s high tide peaked at 8.69 feet in Charleston, over a foot and a half higher than the predicted level. The highest crest on record in Charleston was 12.56 feet on Sept. 21, 1989 — the day that Hurricane Hugo made landfall in South Carolina.

    • What climate change now means — a high tide is the new hurricane.

  37. Griffin

     /  October 27, 2015

    Robert, the slowing Gulf Stream is starting to get some serious attention.

  38. Colorado Bob

     /  October 27, 2015

    Let all the deniers buy beach front land. with no insurance. If climate change is a hoax, move to right to beach.

    • Colorado Bob

       /  October 27, 2015

      Every one needs to get their head around about whats coming . It’s not a straight line, it’s an explosion of troubles.

    • Griffin

       /  October 27, 2015

      “Tuesday morning’s high tide peaked at 8.69 feet in Charleston, over a foot and a half higher than the predicted level.” – That is the phrase that catches my attention. If the Gulf Stream has slowed in another event similar to the 2009/2010 rapid rise event, that would really be something.

      • Hi, Griffin.
        Just curious but who, and when, was this prediction made for the 8.69 ft.?

      • Never mind I saw it n the WaPo above piece.

        ‘The water level near Savannah, Ga., reached 10.43 feet, which was the third highest on record for the station. The top two records are 10.47 feet on Aug. 11, 1940, when a Category 2 hurricane made landfall on the Georgia and South Carolina coast, and 10.87 on Oct. 15, 1947, when Hurricane Nine made landfall in the same location. ‘

      • These are crazy sea level increases. Clear indications of Gulf Stream weakening. You really have to wonder what’s going on with GIS at the moment. The indicators here point toward possibly more melt than what the surface measures are showing. Basal melt again?

        In any case, bad news for the US East Coast.

  39. – The Weather [and traffic] Channel is forecasting seiche conditions for Lake Erie.
    – Historical:

    Oct. 18, 1844: ‘Great flood of 1844′ devastates Buffalo

    Buffalo is famous — or infamous, depending on whom you ask — for its wintry weather. But 170 years ago, it wasn’t a snow storm that devastated Buffalo: It was a deadly flood that struck the city with tidal wave-like force, killing scores of citizens.

    “Purists would call it a seiche, the Great Lakes version of a tidal wave, but for the victims there was little difference,” wrote The News’ Mike Vogel on Oct. 20, 1988. “A wall of water swept across the harbor and city, drowning 78 people while driving ships ashore and washing away scores of homes and wharves.”

    Seiches aren’t uncommon in Lake Erie; we had one as recently as 2012. In 1844, though, the city was ill-prepared for the phenomenon.

  40. dan combs

     /  October 27, 2015

    Robert, Indonesia’s population is 250 million, not 43. While I’m here, a date stamp at the top of your articles would be most helpful, rather than in grey scale at the end. I often share your articles. Great work. Keep it up.

  41. – Other views the serious crisis in Indonesia/SE Asia.

    ”The fires are “the biggest environmental crime of the 21st century,” wrote Erik Meijaard, who coordinates the environmental research initiative Borneo Futures…
    – QUARTZ – qz.com/530649/palm-oils-new-frontier-is-the-vast-rainforest
    ‘Why the ‘biggest climate story on the planet’ is happening in Indonesia right now’
    – washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/10/26/indonesias
    ‘This Could Be the Worst Climate Crisis in the World Right Now’
    Indonesia’s deforestation nightmare is choking thousands and making climate change worse.

    • This is an amplifying feedback. The biggest climate story is the fact that we are emitting at a rate 6 times faster than the Permian.

  42. – Michael Mann on the Thom Hartmann show 1027.
    House ‘Science’ Committee Witch Hunt is Worse than Benghazi!

    • The new Spanish Inquisition here in the Republican House… God what a bunch of soulless pricks.

      • These people are ruthless.

      • Yeah. And if we get a GOPster in the Oval Office in 2016 these maniacs will be even more out of control than they are now, because effectively the USA will become a GOP one-party state.

  43. Ouse M.D.

     /  October 28, 2015

    When it comes to harvesting energy- mankind has undertook too many risky ventures


  44. Study shows thawing permafrost quickly turns into CO2, a climate concern

    “It had previously been assumed that permafrost soil carbon this old was already degraded and not susceptible to rapid decomposition upon thaw,” said Kim Wickland, the USGS scientist who led the team.

    The researchers found that more than half of the dissolved organic carbon in yedoma permafrost was decomposed within one week after thawing. About 50 percent of that carbon was converted to carbon dioxide, while the rest likely became microbial biomass.”


  45. Wharf Rat

     /  October 28, 2015

    UC researchers present 10 scalable solutions for climate change

    University of California climate experts today (Oct. 27) announced 10 scalable solutions for moving the world towards carbon neutrality, a practical framework that outlines both immediate and longer-term actions for staving off catastrophic climate change.

    Gov. Jerry Brown, who joined UC President Janet Napolitano at the UC Carbon and Climate Neutrality Summit at UC San Diego, said the solutions from the UC Climate Solutions Group could help shape talks among global leaders at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris this November.

  46. lurker

     /  October 28, 2015

    The video posted above prompted me to register and post.
    After watching Joe McCarthy and Ted Cruz videos last week the similarity was striking scary.

  47. Greg

     /  October 28, 2015

    Wind Power Now Cheaper Than Natural Gas for Xcel, CEO Says. Xcel is now the biggest U.S. provider of wind power. “We have a plan to add significant amounts of wind to our system,” Fowke said, including about 800 megawatts by 2020. “We’re going to be able to retire coal plants earlier than we expected. It’s going to help us reduce our carbon footprint 60 percent by 2030” in the upper Midwest. Note also, the shares of this company have gained 11 percent in the past year.

    • This is the trend now. Renewables replacing coal and gas. But it’s moving on a decadal scale which is why we need a price on carbon.

  48. Agency won’t give GOP internal docs on climate research
    10/28/15 12:47 PM EDT

    The federal government’s chief climate research agency is refusing to give House Republicans the detailed information they want on a controversial study on climate change.

    Citing confidentiality concerns and the integrity of the scientific process, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said it won’t give Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) the research documents he subpoenaed.

    • NOAA’s become hot to the republican’s misrepresentation and taking quotes out of context game. I think this would be a different case entirely if the documents wouldn’t be combed by PR agents and Lawyers for bits that can be easily misrepresented.

  1. Supernatural: The ghosts of Raleigh, North Carolina « BartBlog

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