Dune has piqued the interest of fans for generations. And one of the series’ most incredible aspects is hands-down its ingenious world-building. Dune takes fans to the planet of Arrakis. This iconic setting is rife with sand dunes, giant worms, and hidden secrets. But what would Arrakis’s climate look like in reality? Could humans survive there? Well, a team of scientists thinks they have the answer.
And, in short, that answer is… Yes. According to an article written in The Conversation, “much of Arrakis itself would indeed be habitable, albeit inhospitable.” Here’s how the scientists arrived at this conclusion.
Warner Bros./Legendary/Climate Archive
Using climate change technology, the team set out to see how “the physics and environment of such a world would stack up against a real climate model.” At the core, the scientists elected to keep the fundamental physical laws of their model the same as Earth’s ones. Then, using information from the novels and The Dune Encyclopedia, they filled in details about the planet’s topography, orbit, and atmosphere. After that, all they could do was wait and see.
After the model was finally complete, the scientists found the climate of Arrakis was basically plausible. The model and the narrative in the books do diverge a bit. However, Frank Herbert created a remarkably accurate universe.
The article shares:
Could humans survive on such a desert planet? First, we must make an assumption that the human-like people in the book and film share similar thermal tolerances to humans today. If that’s the case then, contrary to the book and film, it seems the tropics would be the most habitable area. As there is so little humidity there, survivable wet-bulb temperatures – a measure of “habitability” that combines temperature and humidity – are never exceeded.
The mid-latitudes, where most people on Arrakis live, are actually the most dangerous in terms of heat. In the lowlands, monthly average temperatures are often above 50-60°C, with maximum daily temperatures even higher. Such temperatures are deadly for humans… Cities like Arrakeen and Carthag would suffer from both heat and cold stress, like a more extreme version of parts of Siberia on Earth which can have both uncomfortably hot summers and brutally cold winters.
Ultimately, the scientists come away impressed. They share that Herbert wrote the first Dune book in 1965, well before the first climate model was published. “Herbert did not have the advantage of modern supercomputers, or indeed any computer,” they note. And, taking that into account, “the world he created looks remarkably consistent six decades on.” You can check out the full Arrakis climate model here and zoom in on features such as temperature or wind speeds.
This confirms our suspicions that Dune showcases world-building at its finest. And now, science proves it as well. Three cheers for Arrakis.