With shaded temperatures reaching a high of 46.7⁰C at the new Al Janoub soccer stadium. The air felt to air-conditioning expert Saud Ghani as if God had pointed “a giant hair dryer” at Qatar. 

To survive the summer heat, Qatar not only air-conditions its soccer stadiums, but also the outdoors.Image credit: goal.com

Yet inside the open-air stadium, a cool breeze was blowing. Beneath each of the 40 000 seats, small grates adorned with Arabic-style patterns were pushing out cool air at ankle level. And since cool air sinks, waves of it rolled gently down to the grassy playing field. Vents the size of soccer balls fed more cold air onto the field.

Ghani, an engineering professor at Qatar University, designed the system at Al Janoub, one of eight stadiums that the tiny but fabulously rich Qatar must get in shape for the 2022 World Cup. His breakthrough realisation was that he had to cool only people, not the upper reaches of the stadium — a graceful structure designed by the Zaha Hadid Architects and inspired by traditional boats known as ‘dhows’.

“I don’t need to cool the birds,” Ghani says. Qatar, the world’s leading exporter of liquefied natural gas, may be able to cool its stadiums, but it cannot cool the entire country. Fears that the hundreds of thousands of soccer fans might wilt or even die while shuttling between stadiums and metros and hotels in the unforgiving summer heat prompted the decision to delay the 2022 World Cup by five months. It is now scheduled for November, during Qatar’s milder winter.

Also read: How the 2022 World Cup is emerging from the desert of Qatar

The change in the World Cup date is a symptom of a larger problem — climate change.

Already one of the hottest places on Earth, Qatar has seen average temperatures rise more than 2⁰C above preindustrial times, the current international goal for limiting the damage of global warming.

“Qatar is one of the fastest warming areas of the world, at least outside of the Arctic,” says Zeke Hausfather, a climate data scientist at Berkeley Earth, a non-profit temperature analysis group.

To survive the summer heat, Qatar not only air-conditions its soccer stadiums, but also the outdoors — in markets, along sidewalks, even at outdoor malls so people can window shop with a cool breeze. “If you turn off air conditioners, it will be unbearable. You cannot function effectively,” says Yousef al-Horr, founder of the Gulf Organization for Research and Development.

Yet outdoor air conditioning is part of a vicious cycle. Carbon emissions create global warming, which creates the desire for air conditioning, which creates the need for burning fuels that emit more carbon dioxide. In Qatar, total cooling capacity is expected to nearly double from 2016 to 2030, according to the International District Cooling and Heating Conference.

Source: Denver Post