Gore blames high altitude for Obama’s poor performance

MBS writes:

This short clip of Al Gore defending Obama is pretty funny.

LA replies:

Contrary to what everyone is saying on the conservative Web, I (and I am a former Coloradan) do not think Gore’s statement is silly or nuts. To go to high-altitude Colorado for an extremely important and highly stressful public appearance in which one needed to be at one’s best, and not give oneself at least a day to adjust to the thin air beforehand, was a mistake.

- end of initial entry -

October 5

Alexis Zarkov writes:

I disagree. A place like Breckenridge at 9,600 feet would qualify as “high-altitude Colorado, not Denver at 5,100 feet. The latter is simply too low for any kind of hypoxia in a normal person. The typical cruising cabin pressure on a commercial airliner is 6,900 feet, well above Denver. Pilots have to fly their aircraft with a clear head, so I doubt 5,000 or even 7,000 feet impairs one’s mental ability. I used to make trips every few months to Albuquerque, New Mexico (5,300 feet) from my home (480 feet) to attend technical meetings, and I never noticed any altitude-induced problem with my mental functioning. This website has an online altitude air-pressure calculator. At 5,100 feet, we have 84% of the oxygen concentration available at sea level. At this companion webpage, you can calculate the effect of altitude on blood oxygenation. Choose “feet” for the units, enter “5100” in the altitude box, and hit the “calculate” button at the bottom of the page and get 10 kPa for PaO2, which is the oxygen partial pressure. As one can see in the the graph, at 10 kPa the blood oxygenation is about 98 percent of that at sea level. At 9,300 feet the oxygenation drops to 90 percent. So yes at Breckenridge Obama might have sufferer a little, but not in Denver. I’m not sure how long it takes to adjust to high elevations, but I strongly suspect it’s more than a day, because your body has to make more red blood cells.

Al Gore is nuts, and a scientific ignoramus. In this video you can hear him say that the temperature in the interior of the earth is “several million degrees.” He’s confusing the earth with the sun. The inner 20% (by radius) of the sun is a fusion furnace because of the high gravity. At the core of the earth, you get thousands of degrees.

LA replies:

You’re right. I was thinking in terms of a place outside Aspen where I used to live, which was at over 9,000 feet, and when I went there I needed time for adjustment. But Denver’s 5,280 feet, as you point out, is a different matter.

John K. writes:

I was born and grew up in Los Alamos, New Mexico, altitude 7,700 feet. Being a top level competitive swimmer I felt the effects of altitude differences at as little as 2,200 feet, the approximate drop from Los Alamos to Albuquerque. Some swimmers felt these effects to a lesser extent.

Being a college educated physical research technician (turned private sector handyman), I appreciate Zarkov’s more scientific analysis but not his conclusion. Effects vary greatly due to individual physiology. My grandson who lives in Austin, Texas, altitude 550 feet, will become nauseous and get headaches when he travels here to Albuquerque, altitude 5,500 feet. His three siblings do not.

Furthermore, if Obama had partaken in any exercise after his flight this may have had a temporarily detrimental effect.

I would account Obama’s poor performance as being due to his poor thinking.

Buck writes:

So, Romney snatched his victory out of thin air?

If necessary, and the President of the United States doesn’t have the good sense or doesn’t take a debate seriously enough to do as you say—allow a day to adjust—then he’s incompetent or arrogant. I haven’t heard him using that excuse. He ranted vigorously the next day in Denver. How many people are involved in his campaign? How many of his people have been to Denver? How many times has he been to Denver?

Denver isn’t that high, the air is plenty dense. You need to get beyond 8000 feet to feel real effect. No fit and relatively young person is going to be made delirious or dysfunctional upon landing in Denver. He might have to adjust his basketball game over a day or two. But, just being in conditioned spaces isn’t going to weaken your mind. The man was just smug and cocky. He thinks he owns us and he’s sure of it.

Howard Sutherland writes:

I’m in the unusual position of having to say that an Al Gore utterance is not utter nonsense! While I don’t believe that Obama’s unimpressive performance in Denver can be excused by his failure to acclimate to Denver’s elevation of 5,280 feet (exactly one statute mile up, as it happens), elevation changes can make a significant difference, even to very fit people. And there is no way to tell beforehand who will be severely affected and who will not. I agree completely with Buck that if Obama declined to give himself at least a day in Colorado to acclimate before the debate, he was negligent in an important aspect of his preparation. The White House—not that BHO spends all that much time there—sits at 62 feet.

I have climbed Mount Whitney (14,502 feet), and I remember being pretty short of breath for a lot of the climb—which was really just a long hike up from Whitney Portal at about 8,000 feet. At the time I was a very fit active duty Marine officer, still only 25 years old, but I was used to living in Carlsbad, California: on the beach at sea level.

Another example that got my attention is from college days, and has a Colorado connection. I was a lacrosse player, and our home field was at about 1,100 feet. Every Easter vacation, we would trek to Tampa for the Suncoast Lacrosse Tournament before starting our season in earnest. We played all our games on fields right across from that extraordinary Moorish revival hotel that survives on the University of Tampa campus. All games except one, that is. The Air Force Academy also participated, and for whatever peculiar Air Force reason, the cadets were confined to MacDill Air Force Base, so we would have to drive down there to play them. While we would win, because we were more experienced at the game, the cadets would always amaze us with their endurance—they simply never got tired at all. They would run us ragged. Of course, MacDill is at sea level, and where the cadets live at the Academy—just outside Colorado Springs—is at 7,258 feet. Their lung capacity was much greater than ours.

It offers Obama no excuse for a weak performance, but Al Gore is right that elevation matters.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 04, 2012 09:45 PM | Send

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