"If the current trend persists into the future, human survival in the region will be impossible without continuous access to air conditioning."

Pilgrim's Progress

This year's hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia has been deadly, with more than 1,300 Muslims dying this month, according to the Associated Press, due to extreme hot weather that has averaged over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fatalities are not new to the hajj, which has been beset by deadly stampedes and disease outbreak, but this most recent incident underscores the growing impact of global warming and climate change to Saudi Arabia, which has warmed up considerably compared to other regions.

Regarding this year's deaths, Saudi health officials told the AP that more than 80 percent of them were "unauthorized pilgrims" — meaning they did not have a dedicated, exclusive hajj travel visa.

Some had snuck into the hajj via a regular tourist visa to Saudi Arabia, which does not include the hajj. Because they didn't have authorized access, they had to walk long distances and had no hotel reservation for rest and recuperation from the extreme heat.

Holy Mission

The extreme heat could be a sign of climate change's impact on Saudi Arabia and the hajj pilgrimage, which is a requirement for every Muslim who has the money and the physical capability to complete it, and is considered the largest gathering in the world with around 2 million visitors each year.

A study that came out in March in the Journal of Travel Medicine pointed out that temperatures in Mecca, where the hajj converges, have increased steadily over the last 40 years, with average dry temperature ticking up by 0.72 degrees Fahrenheit per decade.

And a 2021 study published in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology revealed that Saudi Arabia has become warmer since 1979 at a rate 50 percent higher compared to other regions in the Northern Hemisphere.

"If the current trend persists into the future, human survival in the region will be impossible without continuous access to air conditioning," wrote the researchers.

This represents a challenge to the hajj, which is performed out in the open air and becomes unbearable if held during the summer months. (Hajj season varies year to year depending on the lunar calendar.)

Though it's considered a blessing if you perish during the hajj, more deaths from escalating heat during future hajjs is a tragedy waiting to happen.

More on extreme heat: Experts Fear Horrifying Heat Waves That Could Kill Tens of Thousands of People at Once

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