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article imageIran heat index near record 163 degrees, fatalities reported

By Caroline Leopold     Jul 31, 2015 in World
The Middle East has been hit with near record temperatures and humidity this week, leading to the Iraq government mandating a holiday. Iran recorded the second highest heat index Friday that feels like 163 degrees Fahrenheit (72.8 Celsius).
News of July heat waves and broken records have been eclipsed by the latest weather system the Middle East — which is coping with some of the highest temperatures ever recorded.
While the region copes with scorching heat in the summer, a dangerous weather system has caused a prolonged weather system of high heat and humidity.
The massive high pressure ridge or “heat dome” is responsible for the excessive heat, which may stick around for several more days.
In Iraq, the situation was serious enough that government ordered a mandatory four-day holiday beginning Thursday.
The government urged residents to stay out of the sun and drink plenty of water, but for many of the more than 3 million Iraqis displaced by violent conflict, that poses a problem. At least 52 children in Iraq refugees have died from the heat, according to Rudaw.net.
Other deaths from apparent heat stroke have been reported around the world, including Al Jazeera reported of 1,200 deaths in Pakistan in June.
Iraq lacks beaches so some swim in rivers and irrigation canals, while others spend these days in air-conditioned shopping malls, according to the Weather Channel.
On Friday, Bandar Mahshahr, Iran registered an air temperature of 115 degrees Fahrenheit and a dew point of 90, an extraordinarily rare combination of heat and humidity, according to the Washington Post. The resulting heat index, which is what the air feels-like, measure hit 163 degrees Fahrenheit, the second highest ever reported.
According to climatologist Maximiliano Herrera, Kuwait holds the record all-time high of 128.5 degrees Fahrenheit set at Sulaibya on July 31, 2012.
Kuwait registered a high temperature of 127 degrees Fahrenheit on Thursday, but the country was well-prepared for the heat. Nazem al-Ghabra, 31, told the Associated Press: "We're used to this weather, and Kuwait is well-equipped for this harsh weather as almost everything is indoors, even car parking," according to the Weather Channel.
Official records for heat index are not maintained. The heat index system was developed in 1979 by R.G. Steadman as a way to measure how temperatures feel like. The measure is useful to determine whether it's unsafe to be outdoors.
The problem with the heat index system is that it doesn't work as well for extreme temperatures. The system only goes as high as 137 degrees Fahrenheit, and more importantly, what a heat index of 163 Fahrenheit (72.8 Celsius) means is unclear. What does such an intense heat, combined with humidity feel like?
A Washington Post reader shared his experience of the region in an email:
When the winds come off the Persian Gulf you just can’t imagine how awful it gets.
On the hottest and most humid days, you’d walk outside and it felt immediately like someone pressed a hot wet towel, like you sometimes get on airplanes, over your entire head. I wear glasses, and they’d immediately fog up. You sweat instantly. People just avoid being outside in any way they can.
More about Heat wave, record heat, Heat stroke, heat stroke deaths