Climate change analysis predicts increased fatalities from heat waves

May 03, 2011
Climate change analysis predicts increased fatalities from heat waves

Global climate change is anticipated to bring more extreme weather phenomena such as heat waves that could impact human health in the coming decades. An analysis led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health calculated that the city of Chicago could experience between 166 and 2,217 excess deaths per year attributable to heat waves using three different climate change scenarios for the final decades of the 21st century. The study was published May 1 edition of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

"Our study looks to quantify the impact of increased on human mortality. For major a U.S. city like Chicago, the impact will likely be profound and potentially devastating," said Roger Peng, PhD, lead author of the study and associate professor in the Department of Biostatistics at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. "We would expect the impact to be less severe with mitigation efforts including lowering CO2 emissions."

For the analysis, Peng and his colleagues developed three climate change scenarios for 2081 to 2100. The scenarios were based on estimates from seven models and from mortality and air pollution data for the city of Chicago from 1987 to 2005. The data were limited to the warm season from May to October of each year.

From 1987 to 2005, Chicago experienced 14 heat waves lasting an average of 9.2 days, which resulted in an estimated 53 excess deaths per year. In the future, the researchers calculated that excess mortality attributable to heat waves to range from 166 to 2,217 per year. According to the researchers, the projections of excess deaths could not be explained by projected increases in city population alone. The exact change due to global warming in annual mortality projections, however, is sensitive to the choice of climate model used in analysis.

"It's very difficult to make predictions, but given what we know now—absent any form of adaptation or mitigation—our study shows that will exacerbate the health impact of heat waves across a range of plausible future scenarios," added Peng.

Explore further: Five anthropogenic factors that will radically alter northern forests in 50 years

More information: "Towards a Quantitative Estimate of Future Heat Wave Mortality Under Global Climate Change" Environmental Health Perspectives.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Hot town, summer in the city

Jul 15, 2010

Heat waves may cause increased mortality but, until now, there has been no single scientific definition for the occasional bursts of hot weather that can strike during the summer months. Researchers writing in BioMed Central's ...

Heat wave deaths highest in early summer

Nov 30, 2010

The risk of dying from a heat wave is highest when heat waves occur early in the summer and are hotter and longer than usual, according to a Yale study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP).

Climate may increase heat-related deaths by 2050s

Sep 27, 2007

While some uncertainty does exist in climate projections and future health vulnerability, overall increases in heat-related premature mortality are likely by the 2050s, according to a recent study by Columbia University’s ...

Those dog days of August: 3 times the heat by 2050?

Aug 19, 2009

If you are wilting under the summer heat, consider this: your child may one day think of summer 2009 as "back in the cool old days." To illustrate expected increases in extreme summer heat, scientists at ...

Recommended for you

More, bigger wildfires burning western US, study shows

16 hours ago

Wildfires across the western United States have been getting bigger and more frequent over the last 30 years – a trend that could continue as climate change causes temperatures to rise and drought to become ...

User comments : 33

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

OdinsAcolyte
2.2 / 5 (9) May 03, 2011
The more people there are the more die. Increase? no. Global warming? no.
FrankHerbert
1.1 / 5 (7) May 03, 2011
It's almost is if they accounted for that...
GSwift7
3 / 5 (8) May 03, 2011
The statistics they used are described in great detail in the body of the paper, which is available for free here:

http://ehp03.nieh....1002430

They don't come out and say it but the type of estimation they used for the predictions is one that's usually used when the data doesn't show any strong correllation between cause and effect and you are trying to force a fit to some normal distribution. That's cheating unless you know that the data is going to fit a normal distribution, and in this case they don't. It's not correct to assume a linear log fit when the historical data does not show such a fit.

The non-fit is because deaths from heat waves depend strongly on factors other than the intensity of the heat wave, such as population/demographic statistics and economics.
toyo
2.5 / 5 (8) May 03, 2011
...and, GSwift7, they used climate MODELS as the basis for their estimates.
Those self-same models that have not improved their margin of error for a long time.
So again we DO NOT have science here.
GSwift7
2.8 / 5 (9) May 03, 2011
yeah, there's that too, but I'm long past pointing out the uncertainties in the predictive ability of global climate models in regard to regional events like heat waves. Most of the readers here ignore those uncertainties and in some cases vehemently deny those uncertainties despite explicit statements of those uncertainties by the modelers themselves.
omatumr
2.2 / 5 (10) May 03, 2011
Global climate change is anticipated to bring more extreme weather phenomena . . .


No problem.

Just change the name of your model predictions again.

"Global warming" became "global climate change."

Now rename your predictions, "global climate instabilities" and ask for a big increase in government funding for your creativity!

What a sad day for science.

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
GSwift7
2.1 / 5 (7) May 03, 2011
I also think it's valid to point out that the CDC says that average heat-related deaths in the US are currently around 700/year. I don't think the high-end estimate shown above passes the gut-check test for realistic numbers, since they are talking about over 2000 deaths for Chicago alone. Maybe their numbers are skewed by the 1995 event in Chicago. They should have either discarded that outlier year or picked any other major US city, since no other city has ever had an event like that. Since that event wasn't very unusual in terms of actual weather, it must have been socio-economic factors that made it such a bad event. There's been plenty of studies about that one. I'm not sure why the above study picked Chicago unless they were deliberately trying to use data that would give alarming results. I know people here don't like to hear that suggestion though the evidence does suggest it.
GSwift7
2.1 / 5 (8) May 03, 2011
One more thing:

The following is from the Union of Concerned Scientists (they strongly support the theory of AGW, so don't accuse me of cherry-picking or quoting fox news here):

Increased heat waves due to climate change would cause more heat-related illness and death. It is still unclear whether the excess mortality will be offset by a decrease in deaths due to extreme cold (McMichael, 1996).


that is paragraph four, second sentence, at the following location:

http://www.ucsusa...l-6.html
Skeptic_Heretic
3.4 / 5 (5) May 03, 2011
No problem.

Just change the name of your model predictions again.

"Global warming" became "global climate change."
Right, that's why the UN formed the Intergovernmental Panel on CLIMATE CHANGE in 88.
GSwift7
3.5 / 5 (8) May 03, 2011
yep SH, that's correct. The name-change thing is a non-issue. The IPCC charter is loaded to references to climate change and not global warming. The whole global warming thing really got popularized by Al Gore, and he's just a politician not any kind of expert. Here's the IPCC web page with the organizational description:

http://www.ipcc.c...on.shtml

CyberRat
1.8 / 5 (5) May 04, 2011
Humans will be well at temperatures between 25 and 35 degrees Celsius, and with the extra CO2 food will grow well too. It's the cold we have to fear, freezing will bring us less food.
euconsultants
2 / 5 (4) May 04, 2011
The extra deaths because of heatwaves can also be brought as positive news because it also means less people dying in winter because everybody will die, during heatwave or at another time. So the total number of people who die will be the same at the end of the story.
CyberRat
1 / 5 (2) May 04, 2011
@ euconsultants

Smart/Good one.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (1) May 04, 2011
The extra deaths because of heatwaves can also be brought as positive news because it also means less people dying in winter because everybody will die, during heatwave or at another time. So the total number of people who die will be the same at the end of the story.

Not really. What if the weather is more extreme at both ends?

Heatwaves don't necessarily mean there won't be unusually cold winters any longer. Current systems theory actually suggests quite the opposite. If you add energy into an oscillating system, the system will oscillate to the extremes more often. That would be hotter summers and colder winters in regards to climate.
GSwift7
2 / 5 (4) May 04, 2011
You can't generalize like that. You may get milder winters in one region and more extreme in another region. Observations indicate that coastal regions will have milder winters if the climate in that region is warmer. Continental areas are different and the effects seem to vary from one place to another. Also, winter/summer temperature is not the only factor. Precipitation and humidity as well as night-time conditions will affect deaths. The historical relationship between number of weather related deaths and the actual conditions at the time is actually very chaotic. There is not any one measurement of the weather that follows the death rate by itself. That's why they used that funny statistical method in this study that I was talking about above. They 'cheated' and tried to tie deaths directly to temperature anomaly. Historical record shows that we don't alway have the most deaths at times when the temperature is highest, so one of the basic assumptions of the above study is faulty.
Skeptic_Heretic
3 / 5 (2) May 04, 2011
You can't generalize like that. You may get milder winters in one region and more extreme in another region.
Well that's exactly my point. You can't assume anything. I agree with your synopsis above, however there are some indica of death relationship to temperature, but that's only for people who are already at risk for death.

Hell, even a high pollen count one year could kill off thousands. I agree, the study above is faulty, and to have someone speak of how warmer climate will be beneficial, without even a basic understanding of systemic variables is rather irritating.
GSwift7
2.6 / 5 (5) May 04, 2011
to have someone speak of how warmer climate will be beneficial, without even a basic understanding of systemic variables is rather irritating


I agree 100%. It's one of the many silly things you hear from the far right extremists these days.

there are some indica of death relationship to temperature


Yeah, but there's too many times where the temperature is almost exactly the same but deaths are different, as well as times when deaths are the same but temperatures are different. The signal to noise ratio in the data is too high to allow the above assumption of a linear log relationship with a semi-gaussian fit. The data just doesn't indicate that. The funny thing is that the only reason I noticed the flaw is because they used the term quasi-liklihood and I had to start digging to figure out what they were talking about. That led me to look up some of the other terms they used. Then I said to myself "that doesn't make sense".
Skeptic_Heretic
1 / 5 (1) May 04, 2011
I agree 100%. It's one of the many silly things you hear from the far right extremists these days.
Eh, that's not exclusively held by the far right. The far left does it just as much. This is why I'm thoroughly displeased with the degradation of science journalism. Too many ill-informed and opinionated people reporting on the research.
The signal to noise ratio in the data is too high to allow the above assumption of a linear log relationship with a semi-gaussian fit.
Exactly right. Statistics can be used to paint any picture you want, similar to the gun discussion I'm having with Mr. Swenson on another thread. Do guns make you safer or less safe? Answer, who knows. Stats paint both pictures, depending on which stats you bring into consideration.

This goes in the face of the whole, "ignore an expert" vein of reasoning that has overtaken this site. There's a reason why we defer to experts, lots of data, and we don't have to time to know it all.

GSwift7
1.8 / 5 (5) May 04, 2011
Yes, that's the conclusion I've reached as well. Trusting experts is important. I've noticed from reading the articles on this site and others that there are some sources you can almost always trust and others which are almost never 100% straightforward. The EPA is one of the biggest culprits of using misleading statistics. The hardest thing for me has not been figuring out when a study is wrong. Those are so few that it's just not a big issue. The problem for me has been figuring out the parts that just don't get discussed but which are relevant. For example, if you see a study on water quality where they only look at agricultural runoff and they exclude the impact of reforestation and/or urbanization then you only get part of the picture. I see lots of that kind of stuff these days. They might show A cause and then an effect, but they often 'forget' to mention the other half dozen potential causes. The EPA does that a lot, as demonstrated in the above article.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (1) May 04, 2011
For example, if you see a study on water quality where they only look at agricultural runoff and they exclude the impact of reforestation and/or urbanization then you only get part of the picture.
This is a huge point with me too. Runoff was not a problem before industrial fertilizer, but now the research shows that traditional fertilizer methods create greater runoff than targetted petrochemical fertilizers. (source) a study on Pennsylvania state agricultural runoff, particularly focused on the various Amish/Penn Dutch). So if it didn't cause as much devastation then, and we have records that indicate it wasn't traditionally a problem, what's the change now?

Well back then you had massive amounts of natural barriers that would soak up the runoff. Now, with land use change and the lack of forested river area runoff has become a much greater problem.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (2) May 04, 2011
Yep, and the EPA reaction would be? Place a fine on industrial fertilizer under the Clean Water Act? Then release some kind of study showing how they saved the taxpayers billions of dollars in healthcare costs related to fertilizer?

I know, that's an oversimplified/overgeneralized comment, but it's true in a broad sense.
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet May 04, 2011
I know, that's an oversimplified/overgeneralized comment, but it's true in a broad sense.
Well it will become more accurate as we continue to defund the projects that study these mechanics.

If you reduce EPA funding they're not going to drop law enforcement, they're going to drop research first.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (2) May 04, 2011
Isn't a lot of the EPA's research mandated by court rulings? Can they decide to cut research funding if that's the case? I'm guessing that the EPA would have to cut things like public relations/advertising, legal costs, and admin jobs.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (1) May 04, 2011
Isn't a lot of the EPA's research mandated by court rulings? Can they decide to cut research funding if that's the case?
Not court rulings but more by congressional inquiry. The problem is congressional inquiry falls under the domain of discretionary congressional funding. If congress defunds the EPA today, they are defunding edicts of congress from yesterday.
barakn
4 / 5 (4) May 04, 2011
It's the cold we have to fear, freezing will bring us less food. -CyberRat
Oh really? You obviously haven't asked yourself why temperate climates are the breadbaskets of the world, not the wet tropical climates or deserts closer to the equator. It so happens that a freezing season is important for destroying crop pathogens and pests, as well as sending many herbivores into hibernation and killing competing weeds. It allows soil to recharge certain nutrients, like water and nitrogenous compounds, between plantings. Freeze/thaw cycles increase the mechanical weathering of rock, releasing more nutrients into soil, and cold temperatures inhibit the degradation of organics.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (3) May 05, 2011
Not court rulings but more by congressional inquiry


Google it. Courts order environmental impact studies all the time in response to law suits from groups like Siera Club. I guess in that case it's the defendant who pays for it? For example, they are trying to station a group of the new joint strike fighters here in SC. A court ordered an environmental impact study in regard to noise and air pollution. I assume that study comes out of the Airforce's budget? That's a lot of what the EPA does these days, and a budget cut shouldn't change that. The EPA certainly wasts enough money on funding special interest groups and doing huge advertising campaigns that maybe a little budget cut is needed.

I don't think you can name a federal agency where there aren't some big cost saving opportunities.
Quantum_Conundrum
2 / 5 (4) May 07, 2011
The COOLING trend continues.

This past week's records for the U.S.

High Temperatures: 122
Low Temperatures: 651
Lowest Max Temperatures: 581
Highest Min Temperatures: 104

Note that many of the cold breaks were 4 to 7 degree breaks, while most of the "hot" breaks are actually ties or 1 to 2 degree breaks.

Note that if there was a greenhouse effect ocurring, you should never, ever see a large number of record low minimums, and certainly never see a larger number of record low minimums than record high minimums.

Even a mild greenhouse effect should cause it to be virtually impossible for record lows to be broken, and should cause record high minimums to be disproportionately widespread and disproportionately often, particularly in comparison with record lows. We simply do not see that.

In fact, we continue to see just the opposite. There are 5 to 6.5 times as many cold records, including record lows, as compared to hot records, including high minimums...
TehDog
1 / 5 (2) May 07, 2011
And here in the UK, we've just had the warmest april on record...
I don't usually comment here on climate change, not my speciality, but I have to say (personal observation only), that over the last 20 years or so, frogs are spawning earlier, this year it was late Feburary. Just after the thaw from the coldest winter we've had for a long time.
Local weather is not global climate...
Quantum_Conundrum
1 / 5 (2) May 08, 2011
And here in the UK, we've just had the warmest april on record...
I don't usually comment here on climate change, not my speciality, but I have to say (personal observation only), that over the last 20 years or so, frogs are spawning earlier, this year it was late Feburary. Just after the thaw from the coldest winter we've had for a long time.
Local weather is not global climate...


An entire continent (plus Hawaii) is not "Local weather".

In fact, the only place where the hot records are being broken consistently are in the drought stricken regions in Texas and Florida this is due to abnormally arid environment of drought. Other than that, the hot records are mostly some spread out "one-ofs" on the leading side of fronts.

Everywhere else in the country is experiencing cold records.

I suspect that if we could get one good rain event in west Texas, one good rain in south Texas, and one good rain in Florida, it would even set up abnormally cold patterns there as well.
Quantum_Conundrum
1 / 5 (2) May 08, 2011
Whatever greenhouse effect there is, it is completely miniscule.

The majority of any warming that is taking place is local, and caused by man-made structures which alter Albedo (roads, bridges, interior of automobiles, concrete buildings, etc,) which has nothing to do with greenhouse effect.

The Earth self-regulates. Even if it does try to get warmer, that will produce more clouds. More clouds will increase the Earth's Albedo VASTLY (clouds in the temperate or tropical zone will reflect more total light than ice in the arctic). Then, because the clouds will be reflecting so much light, the temperature will cool. This will oscillate until an equilibrium is obtained.

Global temperatures are not significantly influenced by CO2, because CO2 is a trace element, and even if we burned all oil, natural gas, and everything else, CO2 levels would not get high enough to matter.
Quantum_Conundrum
1 / 5 (2) May 08, 2011
To put greenhouse effects in perspective...

Venus is in isothermal equilibrium, which means the temperature is the same everywhere, and heat escapes the planet at exactly the same speed it receives it from the Sun. The temperature is 735 Kelvin, and it has, by mass, approximately 2300 times more CO2 than the earth has.

Yet if Venus were magically transported to Earth's location, it's temperature would "only" be 389.5 Kelvin. This would still be lethal obviously, BUT remember, Venus has 2300 times more atmospheric CO2 than Earth.

The Earth could never reach such an absurd temperature, because there is no process by which to get that much CO2 into the atmosphere, except to heat the Earth to that temperature first. And that could never happen except in a Solar Nova or a planetary scale collision.

Even if we burned stuff untill almost all the oxygen was consumed, the temperature STILL would not get hot enough to create a runaway greenhouse effect. Earth would correct itself.
Quantum_Conundrum
1 / 5 (2) May 08, 2011
Correction, Venus has close to 230,000 times more amtospheric CO2 than Earth.

I forgot to swap some decimals in the math I was doing because I accidentally treated a fraction of a percent as a whole percent.

So the point is, nothing even remotely like that could EVER happen on the Earth (i.e. getting hot enough to permanently boil the oceans, etc).

Even if all the glaciers melt, the temperature will self regulate due to increased cloud formation, which will then oscillate between a slightly warmer state and a slightly cooler state. Essentially, the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone would just get wider and more continuous, and that would cool the planet down via increased Albedo, i.e. prevent further warming, while the extra CO2 gets processed by the plants and algae. Then we'd be right back where we are now, or even back in the mid 1800's climate.
Isaacsname
5 / 5 (1) May 08, 2011
It would be easier to stomach if it wasn't refered to as the " Harvesting effect "

That's just creepy.

More news stories

Six Nepalese dead, six missing in Everest avalanche

At least six Nepalese climbing guides have been killed and six others are missing after an avalanche struck Mount Everest early Friday in one of the deadliest accidents on the world's highest peak, officials ...

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

There's something ancient in the icebox

Glaciers are commonly thought to work like a belt sander. As they move over the land they scrape off everything—vegetation, soil, and even the top layer of bedrock. So scientists were greatly surprised ...

Clean air: Fewer sources for self-cleaning

Up to now, HONO, also known as nitrous acid, was considered one of the most important sources of hydroxyl radicals (OH), which are regarded as the detergent of the atmosphere, allowing the air to clean itself. ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...