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Extreme Heath and Air Pollution Rising in India

Much of India experiences both extreme heat and extreme air pollution, as seen in this photo of the Akshardham Hindu temple. Days with both are going to increase. Sajjad Hussain/AFP via Getty ImagesThe Research Brief is a short take on interesting academic work.

The big idea

Days of extreme high heat and extreme air pollution are both increasing worldwide. In November 2019, New Delhi experienced a week of the worst air pollution in human history. The entire city shut down and planes couldn’t see well enough to land. Not long before that, Western Europe was slammed with two record-breaking heatwaves that caused the deaths of nearly 1,500 people.

Days of extreme heat and extreme pollution do not often overlap, but our two teams at Texas A&M wanted to see if the number of these double extreme days was increasing and explore what the health risks of that might be.

To test this, we used a computer model to look at the co-occurrence of extreme heat and extreme air pollution in South Asia. The model incorporated trends in greenhouse gas and air pollution emissions from industrial and residential sources, population growth, migration trends and even how air pollution is affected by weather, terrain and nearby oceans.

We predict that the frequency of days with both extreme heat and pollution – and the number of people that will be affected by those days – could massively increase by 2050.

We focused on South Asia because it’s already a climate change hot spot and its population is projected to increase from 1.5 billion today to 2 billion by 2050. Under a worst-case climate change scenario and with little reduction in CO2 and other pollutants, days with both extreme heat and extreme pollution would increase in frequency by 175% in the region, resulting in roughly 78 days a year with those double whammy conditions.

Additionally, the amount of land that would experience this double threat for 60 days or more a year would increase tenfold from 2000 to 2050 – from 2% to more than 25% of all of South Asia. This will also lead to more than 52% of the population being exposed to more than 60 days of this double hazard.

Why it matters

Both extreme heat and air pollution have severe negative effects on the human body.

Extreme heat increases the likelihood of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, but can also worsen chronic ailments such as heart disease. As part of an effort to better understand how extreme heat affects mortality rates, we are currently studying the health effects of heat extremes here in Texas.

Air pollution is known to lead to asthma, heart disease, pregnancy complications and other severe health effects.

So what happens when a person experiences both at the same time?

Scientists know that when a person experiences air pollution in addition to another simultaneous stressor, they become more susceptible to both. This has been shown for combinations such as air pollution and smoking, as well as air pollution and COVID-19.

It is hard to say exactly what effect a prolonged exposure to the double threats of heat and air pollution would have on human health as there have only been a few cases studies looking at the combined effects of both. The results, though sparse, do suggest that more people die when the two conditions co-occur.

What still isn’t known

The full health effects from a combination of extreme heat and extreme pollution are largely unknown, especially in many developing nations where studies haven’t been done and the extremes are expected to get more severe. Billions of people are expected to experience these conditions in the coming decades, but researchers know little about what the risks are.

Which populations – both demographically and in terms of chronic diseases – are most at risk? Just how dangerous are these double extreme days to human health? Where are the most at-risk populations?

It is thus important to develop an empirical understanding of the relationship between health outcomes and multiple environmental stressors like heat and air quality.

What’s next

Learning who is most at risk is important, but taking preventative measures, everyone together, should also be considered.

Using our models, we found that reducing carbon dioxide and non-CO2 air pollutant emissions – even by a moderate amount far less than what would be required to meet the 2 degrees Celsius target in the Paris agreement – would prevent the most severe outcomes.

Even under a very moderate emission reduction scenario called RCP6.0 – where emissions peak in 2060 – the frequency of double extreme days would increase by only 58% by 2050, compared to the 175% we are headed for. The population and land area to experience extended exposure to this hazard would be less than half of what was projected in the business-as-usual scenario.

These increases are still nothing to look forward to, but they show that mitigation efforts can make a big difference. In our view, the world needs to act swiftly and, for example, seize the opportunity of current economic recovery to invest in greener energy. Our future generations do not deserve a dirty, hot future.

[Get our best science, health and technology stories. Sign up for The Conversation’s science newsletter.]

This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: Yangyang Xu, Texas A&M University and Xiaohui Xu, Texas A&M University.

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Yangyang Xu receives funding from National Science Foundation.

Xiaohui Xu does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Pop mogul Simon Cowell was a racing flop with ‘awful’ £35,000 horse he owned with Ant and Dec – that didn’t win a penny

SIMON COWELL conquered the music world – but his foray into racing ended in disaster with an ‘awful’ £35,000 horse he owned with Ant and Dec.

The music mogul, 62, has done it all with bands like One Direction, Little Mix and solo acts Olly Murs and James Arthur, to name but a few.

Cowell owned an 'awful' £35,000 horse with Ant and Dec - but the runner didn't win a single penny in six races

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Cowell owned an ‘awful’ £35,000 horse with Ant and Dec – but the runner didn’t win a single penny in six racesCredit: PA:Press Association
Cowell remains a massive racing fan and loves Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby

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Cowell remains a massive racing fan and loves Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby

His Syco label – plus shows such as Britain’s Got Talent – have dominated the entertainment industry and brought him an estimated net worth of £385m.

A lover of Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby, he looked perfectly poised to strike a knockout blow in the world of thoroughbreds.

But it turns out his runner was far from No1 in the charts – and never even finished better than fifth during a doomed six-race career.

Things looked promising at the start.

Named It’s A Yes From Me, the runner was trained with the respected James Fanshawe and sent off at 8-1 for his first race in June 2014.

But coming last of five by 13-and-a-half lengths was unfortunately about as good as it got for the gelding.

A month’s rest followed before he was sent off at 40-1 in a six-furlong sprint at Doncaster.

But there he could only manage fifth again, and it was same at Redcar the next month.

‘Dreadfully slow’

By October that year – with further finishes of sixth and tenth – It’s A Yes From Me came second-last in a one-mile race at Kempton.

One analysis of the race warned punters the horse was ‘one to tread carefully’ with.

Well, Cowell and Ant and Dec took that advice to heart as they never raced him again.

The horse was penniless from six races, never finishing high enough to recoup some of that £35,000 investment.

It’s doubtful Cowell, with hundreds of millions in the bank, lost any sleep over that.

But Ant and Dec revealed just how bad things has got with the horse during an interview last year.

Dec said of It’s A Yes From Me: “It was awful, it was a dreadfully slow horse.

“It wasn’t a racehorse it was just a horse, because it didn’t race.

“Every time we got to the BGT studio Simon would say, ‘I keep paying stable fees on this horse, but I’ve never seen it run’.”

Cowell originally wanted to name the nag after himself, but they settled on It’s A Yes From Me when they bought it in 2013.

‘It was awful’

Dec revealed its eventual fate: “I think it got rehomed.”

Of course it’s not all been bad for Cowell at the races.

He was one of the exclusive few at the Epsom Derby in June, having a great time with partner Lauren Silverman and Piers Morgan.

And two weeks later he was at Royal Ascot – where he first discovered his love of racing.

Cowell told SunSport’s Matt Chapman during a chat at Epsom: “I’ve got my son Eric with me today.

“My mum and dad years ago used to take me to Ascot and I was probably about his age – seven or eight.

Cowell with partner Lauren at Epsom earlier this year

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Cowell with partner Lauren at Epsom earlier this yearCredit: Getty
It's A Yes From Me trails behind in last during one of his six races

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It’s A Yes From Me trails behind in last during one of his six races
The music supremo tweeted about his horse's bad start... which never got much better

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The music supremo tweeted about his horse’s bad start… which never got much better

Most read in Horse Racing

“So the fact I can now bring him to the races as well is brilliant. It brings back a lot of good memories.

“Making TV shows is my passion. But racing is actually my second passion.”

He hasn’t made that passion the money-maker his music label is, but don’t rule out Cowell staging his own comeback at the track in the near future.

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Commercial content notice: Taking one of the bookmaker offers featured in this article may result in a payment to The Sun. 18+. T&Cs apply. Begambleaware.org


Remember to gamble responsibly

A responsible gambler is someone who:

  • Establishes time and monetary limits before playing
  • Only gambles with money they can afford to lose
  • Never chases their losses
  • Doesn’t gamble if they’re upset, angry or depressed
  • Gamcare – www.gamcare.org.uk
  • Gamble Aware – www.begambleaware.org

Commercial content notice: Taking one of the bookmaker offers featured in this article may result in a payment to The Sun. 18+. T&Cs apply. Begambleaware.org


Remember to gamble responsibly

A responsible gambler is someone who:

  • Establishes time and monetary limits before playing
  • Only gambles with money they can afford to lose
  • Never chases their losses
  • Doesn’t gamble if they’re upset, angry or depressed
  • Gamcare – www.gamcare.org.uk
  • Gamble Aware – www.begambleaware.org
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Minnesota wildfire doubles in size, creates its own weather

A wildfire in northeastern Minnesota more than doubled in size Tuesday, growing to more than 19,000 acres, after it produced pyrocumulous clouds that generated lightning and even raindrops, fire officials said.

The Greenwood Fire’s growth, most of which happened Monday afternoon, prompted firefighters to leave McDougal Lake, about 80 miles south-southwest of Duluth, officials said. Authorities fear that structures might have been destroyed or damaged.

“We had crews embedded, and as this fire took off, it was quite an effort to communicate with forces on the ground so they could get out,” said federal fire incident spokesman Clark McCreedy.

The pullout was a success, and no injuries were reported. However, downed trees and necessary cleanup mean crews have been unable to assess damage around the lake, McCreedy said.

In addition to the firefighter pullout, 159 dwellings were evacuated Monday, according to an update from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group. Cabins, homes and recreational sites remain under threat, the group said.

Patrick Prochaska, a Minneapolis resident who built a cabin near McDougal Lake in 2012, told NBC affiliate KARE that he watched via security camera as flames mostly bypassed his property Monday, causing minor damage.

“I was feeling very scared,” he said. “At the same time, I could see that it was not doing anything to the house, and it was kind of reassuring.”

The fire in and north of Superior National Forest has mostly performed according to the weather, fire officials said. On Monday, with dry fuel on the ground and temperatures in the high 80s, it was an expanding inferno punctuated by strobes of lightning.

“The winds were drawn into the fire from all directions,” the incident’s fire behavior analyst, Michael Locke, said in a video update Tuesday. “It created what we call pyrocumulous clouds. And really high in the atmosphere … you’d see a thunderstorm, and in fact they went high enough to produce a few sprinkles of rain and even some lightning.”

Temperatures dipped into the mid-70s Tuesday, and the blaze mellowed. “The real story was cloud cover and cooler temperatures,” McCreedy said.

More of the same, and possibly rain, was in the forecast, giving officials hope that they might be able to close the book on an unusually active and dry fire season in Minnesota.

Experts have said climate change has set the stage for extreme weather, including an increase in the frequency and intensity of wildfires in the Northern Hemisphere.

Firefighters — 426 were assigned to the Greenwood event — have been confronted with “prolonged, severe drought,” making parts of Minnesota look like the fire-prone West this summer, McCreedy said.

The Greenwood Fire, which was detected Aug. 15, is believed to have been sparked by lightning.

So far, firefighters have scored no containment, and areas including McDougal Lake, Sand Lake and the Highway 2 corridor have been under mandatory evacuation orders. The federal Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness was closed Saturday “due to active and increasing fire activity, extreme drought, limited resources,” the National Forest Service said in a notice.

Officials set a goal of Sept. 1 for full containment.

“We’re probably going to get more of that moderating weather for the rest of the week,” McCreedy said. “That opens the door for fire crews to make progress on the ground.”

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Hiker survives grizzly bear attack at Denali National Park

A tourist from Indiana was attacked and injured by a grizzly bear at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska on Monday night, park officials said.

The 55-year-old tourist, whose name was not released, was hiking alone in dense fog in the Thoroughfare Pass area when a mother bear and multiple cubs charged him from nearby bushes, the National Park Service said in a statement Tuesday.

He had puncture wounds to a calf, his left ribs and his left shoulder, the agency said.

The victim used bear spray that might have cut the attack short, the park service indicated. He walked 1.5 miles to a visitor’s center where “medical personnel” vacationing at Denali treated him as a park bus driver called 911, it said.

The hiker was taken to a medical center near the park before he was transferred to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, about 120 miles away, park officials said. He was stabilized at the Fairbanks hospital, they said.

“Due to the apparent defensive nature of this attack, there are no plans to locate the bear involved,” the park service said. “Female bears with cubs are naturally defensive of their young, especially when surprised. There is no indication that this bear is unusually dangerous.”

Grizzly bears are federally protected as a threatened species in the lower 48 states. According to the National Wildlife Federation, fewer than 1,500 grizzlies are left in the lower 48, but they thrive, comparatively, in Alaska, where they have a population of about 31,000.

The backcountry area of the attack is closed for one week as a precaution, the park service said.

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