Asthma and Atmospheric Pressure

These last few days have been medically challenging due to a sudden onset of pulmonary oedema and some urgent medical attention. I mentioned this to a good friend in Western Australia who also mentioned that for the first time since his teen-age times he suffered a minor attack of asthma. This puzzled me. It became less puzzling when an inquisitive relative mentioned, en passant, the present tropical cyclone near Fiji in the Pacific Ocean; this rang my electric plasma bell.

Cyclones are strong negative pressure atmospheric vortices dominated by excess negative electric charge. This has to be balanced elsewhere by high pressure cells with excess positive charges. The following BOM graphic is for 20th February 2016.

Screen Shot 2016 02 20 at 2 59 05 PM

Figure 1

Clearly the southern portion of Australia is dominated by high pressure atmospheric cells. I live in the SE corner of Australia. My friend lives in Perth. Pressure differential between Perth (1009 hPa) and my location (1020 hPa) is some +11hPa; hence atmospheric pressure is higher where I am by some 11 hPa.

Breathing is basically fighting atmospheric pressure to expand one’s lungs, and the higher the pressure, the harder it is to inhale. Which might explain why my friend had a mild asthmatic incident and I a somewhat more intense one, everything else being equal. I also have a heart operating at 50% capacity, with AF, so I might be more sensitive to perturbations in atmospheric pressure.

It’s more complex than what I have briefly described here but when the hospital is at a loss to explain my breathing difficulties, it’s always interesting to check the physical environment. This means checking my breathing performance and plotting it against atmospheric pressure on a daily basis.

About Louis Hissink

Retired diamond exploration geologist. I spent my professional life looking for mineral deposits, found some, and also located a number of kimberlites in NSW and Western Australia. Exploration geology is the closest one can get to practicing the scientific method, mineral exploration always being concerned with finding anomalous geophysical or geochemical data, framing a model and explanation for the anomaly and then testing it with drilling or excavation. All scientific theories are ultimately false since they invariably involved explaining something with incomplete extant knowledge. Since no one is omniscient or knows everything, so too scientific theories which are solely limited to existing knowledge. Because the future always yields new data, scientific theories must change to be compatible with the new data. Thus a true scientist is never in love with any particular theory, always knowing that when the facts change, so too must he/she change their minds.
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