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Old 04-25-2012, 08:35 AM
 
Location: Atlanta
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I've been meaning to ask this on here for a while, the question of whether extreme heat is worse than extreme cold, or the other way around.

My opinion is that heat is worse, and global warming is indeed one of my biggest fears for the years ahead. Extreme heat waves kill far more people than cold waves - anyone remember the French heat wave of 2003 in which 10,000+ people died? Or the Chicago heat wave of the late 90's, in which the death toll was around a 1000? On a smaller scale, every summer there's always reports of people dying from heat stroke, whereas I very rarely hear of people dying from hypothermia. I would dare say that the ratio between heat and cold deaths is 10 to 1 in favor of heat.

The reason for this is simple - cold you can prepare for, by bundling up and taking shelter in a warm place. Even if caught in the wilderness, it's possible to build a fire to keep warm. But extreme heat, there's not much that can be done to ward off heatstroke, other than finding air-conditioned buildings or finding cool water. You can only take off so many clothes, and if you're still too hot in your birthday suit, there's not much to be done at that point. Cold, on the other hand, you just keep adding layers until you no longer feel cold, which is why you rarely hear of people dying in unheated homes during a wintertime power outage - people can just huddle and cuddle for warmth. Heat, on the other hand, is quite deadly during a summer power outage as it gets very difficult to keep cool once your house becomes an oven, which is why we see such horrendous death tolls in heat-induced power outages.

This is why I fear global warming so much - if we see another 5 degree F rise in average summer temps, power outages would be much more common, and many more people would die from heat stroke. An ice age, on the other hand, would be far more ideal I think, as it's far easier to protect and adapt against cold than heat. As for crops and the like, I would think that far more crops are lost due to heat and drought than untimely freezes, although I'm not certain of this. Besides, if the Earth somehow got really chilly, we could adapt by growing food in greenhouses, something that cannot be done in a hotter world.

So, given the choice of extreme heat or extreme cold, I'll take the cold any day of the week.

What do you folks think?
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Old 04-25-2012, 08:49 AM
 
Location: Leeds, UK
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We've done this to death before, it's subjective, and I don't like either and don't want to experience either.
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Old 04-25-2012, 09:02 AM
 
Location: Tricity, PL
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Extreme heat.
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Old 04-25-2012, 09:36 AM
 
Location: London, UK
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Without air con or heating - extreme cold by a WIDE margin.

Would you prefer being homeless in Delhi or in Fairbanks?

With AC or heating - doesn't really matter when you can stay in a 20°C environment. But walking 15 min in 50°C temps with plenty of stuff to drink is hardly gonna kill you whereas in -60°C windchills you could get seriously hurt, your skin can freeze, etc. blablabla

In this thread : heat vs cold again.

Can we please close it before it's too late?
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Old 04-25-2012, 09:50 AM
 
Location: Atlanta
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dhdh View Post
Without air con or heating - extreme cold by a WIDE margin.

Would you prefer being homeless in Delhi or in Fairbanks?

With AC or heating - doesn't really matter when you can stay in a 20°C environment. But walking 15 min in 50°C temps with plenty of stuff to drink is hardly gonna kill you whereas in -60°C windchills you could get seriously hurt, your skin can freeze, etc. blablabla

In this thread : heat vs cold again.

Can we please close it before it's too late?
That's the thing, there's no homeless people in Fairbanks, society would never permit it. New Deli is the last place on Earth I'd rather be, homeless or not...lol.

There's a reason why northern countries are generally better off than ones in tropical regions - cold is just better for humans all around. I've even heard that if it wasn't for the recent Ice Age, humans would have never advanced like we have, as the harsh conditions "sharpened" us to enable our survival in that environment.

As for heat, it's never done any good for anybody except for vacationers in the tropics...lol. Bring on the cold, I say!
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Old 04-25-2012, 11:25 AM
 
Location: Newcastle NSW Australia
1,492 posts, read 2,731,190 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NorthStarDelight View Post
That's the thing, there's no homeless people in Fairbanks, society would never permit it. New Deli is the last place on Earth I'd rather be, homeless or not...lol.

There's a reason why northern countries are generally better off than ones in tropical regions - cold is just better for humans all around. I've even heard that if it wasn't for the recent Ice Age, humans would have never advanced like we have, as the harsh conditions "sharpened" us to enable our survival in that environment.

As for heat, it's never done any good for anybody except for vacationers in the tropics...lol. Bring on the cold, I say!
That's not a bad point, one can think and study better in cool weather (not cold) than in the heat.
Ever noticed that those handful of ""untouched"" civilizations, that are still living as hunters and gatherers, are in tropical and equatorial areas?
I would disagree about the lethal affects of cold though, every year in winter cold snaps kill hundreds of people - particularly homeless and intoxicated people - especially in places like Russia etc.
In work places that have blast freezers, eg meat works, at -18C or even lower, someone would die very quickly if left inside one of these. It has happened.
For what it's worth I detest heat and cold, especially heat combined with humidity, and would much rather live in perpetual mildness of 12C - 22.5C days, with a one standard deviation of only 2.5C.
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Old 04-25-2012, 11:56 AM
 
Location: Laurentia
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Extreme heat is a lot worse to me. As it has been pointed out, it is subjective and different people do best in different environments. However, I will say that the notion that human civilization/intellect and life in general is stimulated by cold climate and climatic cooling has merit, and provides a nice counterpoint to the idea that constant heat is best for life, as is so often implied.

There is no possible relief from extreme heat, whereas extreme cold is very survivable with proper clothing. I exclude direct temperature modification such as air conditioning or heating from this analysis, as obviously you're changing the environment, at least on a very local scale (a single building). In addition the technology required for heating is far less advanced, i.e. easier, than cooling. Furnaces were invented long before air conditioning, and even the simpler (albeit ineffective) cooling technologies such as ice machines and iceboxes as well as simple evaporative cooling apparatuses were invented long after their simpler equivalents for heating. After all, humans/hominids have been manipulating fire for hundreds of thousands, if not millions of years. In addition to that as I mentioned before my body is far more adapted for cold than heat, and I simply prefer the cold and snow.

Obviously, if presented with a choice between Mecca and Vostok Station I would hate both options, but I would pick Vostok as the better option. My optimum is a 0-degree winter with a 60-degree summer, which, though it bears a closer resemblance to Vostok, doesn't lend itself to preferring either. My point is that though I prefer conditions near my optimum, and dislike temperatures very far from it (hotter or colder), the colder end is easier to deal with than the hotter end. Not to mention that the cold end still features a winter, albeit a perpetual one, which I'd prefer over a winterless climate.

Quote:
Originally Posted by NorthStarDelight View Post
My opinion is that heat is worse, and global warming is indeed one of my biggest fears for the years ahead. Extreme heat waves kill far more people than cold waves - anyone remember the French heat wave of 2003 in which 10,000+ people died? Or the Chicago heat wave of the late 90's, in which the death toll was around a 1000? On a smaller scale, every summer there's always reports of people dying from heat stroke, whereas I very rarely hear of people dying from hypothermia. I would dare say that the ratio between heat and cold deaths is 10 to 1 in favor of heat.

The reason for this is simple - cold you can prepare for, by bundling up and taking shelter in a warm place. Even if caught in the wilderness, it's possible to build a fire to keep warm. But extreme heat, there's not much that can be done to ward off heatstroke, other than finding air-conditioned buildings or finding cool water. You can only take off so many clothes, and if you're still too hot in your birthday suit, there's not much to be done at that point. Cold, on the other hand, you just keep adding layers until you no longer feel cold, which is why you rarely hear of people dying in unheated homes during a wintertime power outage - people can just huddle and cuddle for warmth. Heat, on the other hand, is quite deadly during a summer power outage as it gets very difficult to keep cool once your house becomes an oven, which is why we see such horrendous death tolls in heat-induced power outages.

This is why I fear global warming so much - if we see another 5 degree F rise in average summer temps, power outages would be much more common, and many more people would die from heat stroke. An ice age, on the other hand, would be far more ideal I think, as it's far easier to protect and adapt against cold than heat. As for crops and the like, I would think that far more crops are lost due to heat and drought than untimely freezes, although I'm not certain of this. Besides, if the Earth somehow got really chilly, we could adapt by growing food in greenhouses, something that cannot be done in a hotter world.

So, given the choice of extreme heat or extreme cold, I'll take the cold any day of the week.

What do you folks think?
I essentially agree with your assessment, and global warming would be far more damaging than another glacial. Swaths of the planet would become uninhabitable and unsuited for crops. Cold steppes and continental climates form the breadbaskets of the world, and these would be compromised a lot more in a warming scenario than a cooling scenario. Of course if caught unprepared both reglaciation and warming could have disastrous consequences, but I believe that cooling will be a lot easier to adapt to than warming, both in scenarios where we're prepared and scenarios where we're unprepared.

Aside from the fact that humans and near-humans have survived unimpeded for millenia in the past during glacials, growing food in massive greenhouses along with providing for energy through nuclear power is the one technologically feasible solution which will enable humans to adapt easily to a reglaciation. So if we're prepared, a new glacial will not affect survival prospects at all, and will even be an improvement from my own point of view, seeing as the menu of climates to choose from is richer for someone like me in a glacial than in an interglacial. In fact that same plan was proposed by Dr. Habibullo Abdussamatov, who is concerned with the prospect of a new glacial in the near future and has thought of ways to adapt to it. Add to that the fact that new land will be exposed due to declining sea levels, and we have a picture that isn't that bad. So any catastrophic consequences of a reglaciation, given the technology and intellect available, will really be the fault of our own foolishness.

The same can't be said for a big global warming event; major agricultural centers will likewise be eliminated, but without the prospect of massive glacial greenhouses. Cooling is more difficult and requires more power than heating, and as the tropics have demonstrated heat may not provide the same impetus as cold does to advance ourselves and build infrastructure (though this is speculative on my part). Just the sea level part alone is a big factor. The opening up of new lands during a glacial provides no difficulty. Contrast that with a sea level rise that pretty much eliminates all of the world's coastal cities, and one can see that the latter is much more difficult of a prospect. Of course, I am confident that in any scenario, humans can adapt, if nothing else by moving towards the poles. Obviously that doesn't work after a certain point (like Mesozoic-era climate), and the good part of the menu of climates to choose from on this planet is almost eliminated in that sort of scenario, given that the vast majority of the planet will sport hot summers. Humans can survive, but a reglaciation is a lot easier than a big warming event.

There is also the matter of a big global warming event combined with our declining infrastructure. The infrastructure and electrical grid in the United States is crumbling, and is lurching towards collapse. A big warming event would prove catastrophic. There are already frequent power outages in the United States of unacceptable duration and breadth. Already hot summers put a huge strain on the weakening infrastructure, and hotter summers in a warming scenario will mean catastrophic consequences for the power grid. In a cooling climate with decaying infrastructure, the weather provides more impetus for the construction of adequate systems, and the ice and snow mitigates the road decay, providing a natural and easy to fabricate good road surface for snowmobiles and sleds. In fact in the 18th century, before the development of modern roads, frequent travelers actually hoped for a cold and snowy winter because the "road" surfaces were smoother and passengers and materials could be transported a lot faster on sleds than in dirt or mud, whose surfaces were a lot less smooth. The same could apply to cracked asphalt.

Quote:
Originally Posted by NorthStarDelight View Post
That's the thing, there's no homeless people in Fairbanks, society would never permit it. New Deli is the last place on Earth I'd rather be, homeless or not...lol.

There's a reason why northern countries are generally better off than ones in tropical regions - cold is just better for humans all around. I've even heard that if it wasn't for the recent Ice Age, humans would have never advanced like we have, as the harsh conditions "sharpened" us to enable our survival in that environment.

As for heat, it's never done any good for anybody except for vacationers in the tropics...lol. Bring on the cold, I say!
I essentially agree with your statements there as well, though I would be very cautious in making blanket statements that cold is better for humans. Obviously many humans are suited for a hot environment - just ask Dhdh . However there is some evidence that life and intellect is stimulated by cold climates and climatic cooling. After all, we owe our entire modern world to the sudden cooling of the 14th century, which shook up the corrupt old order enough to enable science and intellect to flourish and the modern world to begin. In addition there is the "ice age sharpening" that you mentioned, though that is speculative, and there is circumstantial evidence that the Cambrian Explosion may have been brought on by the Snowball Earth era, which stimulated life. Of course this is part of a general trend of crises, changes, and shakeups stimulating life and spurring advancement. These notions are gaining support, including the more general idea that mass extinctions, at least on some level, spur evolution and advancement. After all, if it wasn't for a certain mass extinction we wouldn't be here (though some dinosaurs may have achieved sapience if they continued on).

On the question of bringing on the cold, I second that .

Quote:
Originally Posted by Derek40 View Post
I would disagree about the lethal affects of cold though, every year in winter cold snaps kill hundreds of people - particularly homeless and intoxicated people - especially in places like Russia etc.
In work places that have blast freezers, eg meat works, at -18C or even lower, someone would die very quickly if left inside one of these. It has happened.
Unlike extreme heat, with the proper preparedness and technology, which is extremely simple (contrast air conditioning), cold weather is very survivable. Since these powers rest within just about everyone in the world, in general people who die of the cold in these cold snaps have their own stupidity to blame. Anecdotes confirm this stupid behavior, which by the way includes becoming intoxicated in the first place. As for those people who have died in -18C freezers, I ascribe that to unpreparedness brought on by stupidity as well, since -18C is quite mild and a piece of cake by standards of survival in the arctic.

For what it's worth I am of the belief that a good portion of deaths from the heat are due to the victim's own stupidity as well, but this proportion is far less than on the cold side, among other things because of the huge technological disparity between heating and cooling methods.

As for those who are left in the cold, including the homeless, I'd still say cold is better because the impetus for actually doing something to ensure the homeless's survival and welfare is far stronger in extreme cold than in extreme heat. Just look at all of the people who perish and are burnt up (literally) from the extreme heat in the remote desert outside of Yuma versus all of the people who perish and freeze in the North Slope. Far more is done to ensure the survival of those in the North Slope than in the Sonoran Desert. Far less people die on the North Slope of cold than die in that desert of heat, even if one adjusts for the rather small disparity between the populations of these locations. Hypothermia deaths are rare on the North Slope, in contrast to the fact that finding burned-up bodies in the Yuma border sector isn't a rare occurrence.

Of course both extremes are really bad for humans, and pleasant and/or optimal conditions, whatever those may be, are what is best for a given human. The point I'd press is that at least for most people conditions that are much colder than that optimum will be easier to handle than conditions that are much hotter than that optimum.


By the way, I think I set another record for the longest post I've submitted.

Last edited by nei; 04-25-2012 at 12:41 PM.. Reason: deleted response to deleted post
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Old 04-25-2012, 12:31 PM
 
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Extreme heat!


With extreme cold theres still ways to stay warm whether you're indoors or out. Without the aid of air conditioning, there's not much you can do for relief from extreme heat.
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Old 04-25-2012, 12:36 PM
 
Location: Buxton, England
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I've experienced neither, and in my opinion any "extremes" are bad, and not comfortable to anybody, so there's no right or wrong answer as to which is worse. Both have dangerous effects in different ways as you well know.
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Old 04-25-2012, 12:57 PM
 
Location: Atlanta
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Patricius Maximus View Post
................

By the way, I think I set another record for the longest post I've submitted.

Thanks so much for such an informative and thoughtful post.

Looks like you've given this a lot of thought, and I certainly agree with your premises about people being able to adapt to a colder regime as opposed to a hot one. And yeah, I'm heavily biased to a cold regime, as I get overheated way too easily, which is why you'll often see me running around in t-shirts and shorts when everyone else is wearing jackets and sweaters...lol.

I do want to add that climate stability is best for all of us as a whole, and that's generally what we've had in recent centuries, although I think we're in a period of transition to a more volatile climate, which is probably more of the norm over longer time spans. In other words, we've been lucky in recent times, and this run of good luck may be coming to an end quite soon, if it hasn't already.

Let's hope we can adapt to whatever mother nature decides to throw at us.
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