Heat-related deaths in Manhattan projected to rise

May 19, 2013
Heat-related deaths in Manhattan projected to rise
Heat-related fatalities are projected rise steeply in Manhattan due to warming climate. This man rode a subway car during an August 2006 heat wave. Credit: Environmental Health Perspectives

Residents of Manhattan will not just sweat harder from rising temperatures in the future, says a new study; many may die. Researchers say deaths linked to warming climate may rise some 20 percent by the 2020s, and, in some worst-case scenarios, 90 percent or more by the 2080s. Higher winter temperatures may partially offset heat-related deaths by cutting cold-related mortality—but even so, annual net temperature-related deaths might go up a third. The study, published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change, was done by a team at Columbia University's Earth Institute and the Mailman School of Public Health.

Studies of other cities have already projected from rising temperatures, but this is one of the most comprehensive so far. Unlike many others, it combines data from all seasons, and applies multiple scenarios to a local area—in this case, the most densely populated county in the United States. "This serves as a reminder that heat events are one of the greatest hazards faced by urban populations around the globe," said coauthor Radley Horton, a climate scientist at the Earth Institute's Center for Climate Systems Research. Horton says that people need look no further for the potential dangers than the record 2010 heat wave that hit Russia, killing some 55,000 people, and the 2003 one that killed 70,000 in central and western Europe.

Daily records from Manhattan's Central Park show that average monthly temperatures already increased by 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit from 1901 to 2000—substantially more than the global and U.S. trends. Cities tend to concentrate heat; buildings and pavement soak it up during the day and give it off at night. Many records have been set in Manhattan recently; 2012 was its warmest year on record, and in each of the past three years, it has seen temperatures at or above 100 degrees F. Projections for the future vary, but all foresee steep future average increases : 3.3 to 4.2 degrees F more by the 2050s, and 4.3 to 7.1 degrees by the 2080s.

To make mortality estimates, the researchers took temperature projections from 16 global climate models, downscaled these to Manhattan, and put them against two different backdrops: one assuming rapid global population growth and few efforts to limit emissions; the other, assuming slower growth, and technological changes that would decrease emissions by 2040. As a baseline for estimating temperature-related deaths, they used the 1980s, when an estimated 370 Manhattanites died from overheating, and 340 died from cold.

No matter what scenario they used, the projections suggested increased mortality. In the 2020s for instance, numbers produced from the various scenarios worked out to a mean increase of about 20 percent in deaths due to heat, set against a mean decrease of about 12 percent in deaths due to cold. The net result: a 5 or 6 percent increase in overall temperature-related deaths. Due mainly to uncertainties in future greenhouse emissions, projections for the 2050s and 2080s diverge more—but in all scenarios mortality would rise steeply. The best-case scenario projects a net 15 percent increase in temperature-related deaths; the worst, a rise of 30-some percent. Assuming Manhattan's current population of 1.6 million remains the same, the worst-case scenario translates to more than 1,000 annual deaths.

The study also found that the largest percentage increase in deaths would come not during the traditionally sweltering months of June through August, but rather in May and September—periods that are now generally pleasant, but which will probably increasingly become incorporated into the brutal dog days of summer.

Senior author Patrick Kinney, an environmental scientist at the Mailman School and Earth Institute faculty member, pointed out several uncertainties in the study. For instance, he said, things could be made better or worse by demographic trends, and how well New York adapts its infrastructure and policies to a warmer world. On one hand, future Manhattanites may be on average older and thus more vulnerable; on the other, New York is already a leader in efforts to mitigate warming, planting trees, making surfaces such as roofs more reflective, and opening air-conditioned centers where people can come to cool off. Kinney said there is already some evidence that even as city heat rose during the latter 20th century, heat-related deaths went down—probably due to the introduction of home air conditioning. "I think this points to the need for cities to look for ways to make themselves and their people more resilient to heat," he said.

The lead author of the study is Tiantian Li, an epidemiologist now at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing, who did the work while serving as a postdoctoral researcher at the Columbia Climate and Health Program at Mailman, which Kinney directs.

Explore further: Dam hard: Water storage is a historic headache for Australia

More information: Paper: dx.doi.org/10.1038/nclimate1902

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User comments : 15

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VENDItardE
1.5 / 5 (24) May 19, 2013
more alarmist nonsense
Jeddy_Mctedder
1.6 / 5 (26) May 19, 2013
the over-abundance of nonsense is become alarming. a generation of brainwashed people will listen not only to nonsense about climate, but also to nonsense about trusting corrupted institutions and placing faith in dependence.
Joe Science
1.6 / 5 (21) May 19, 2013
This just balances out the tens of thousands that are freezing to death in Europe every winter. This article is hilarious.
cantdrive85
1.7 / 5 (19) May 19, 2013
That may be the case, but it still won't help the US with it's New Yorker problem
Duude
1.6 / 5 (18) May 19, 2013
Southern California has seen moderating temperatures in the last 5 years. Winter lasts about 2 months but even that isn't really like winter in the rest of the country, but Summers have become just an extension of Spring. All that and we still don't have much humidity at all. Yeah, life is great.
ROBTHEGOB
1.6 / 5 (16) May 20, 2013
Just knock down some of the ugly buildings and plant more trees. Problem solved.
Howhot
3.9 / 5 (11) May 20, 2013
The last decade was the hottest since records began in 1880, the rate of increase showed ever-rising levels in lockstep with Earth-warming greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. As temps rise more humidity is freed from vegetation, soil, etc compounding the heat index and making things just freaky hot. How hot do you ask? So hot deniers come out of the wood work.

triplehelix
1.7 / 5 (21) May 20, 2013
I'd rather be in the heat than in the cold. Let's see how many people died trying to invade russia due to cold. Oh right, millions. How many died invading Africa back a couple hundred years ago, due to temperature, hmmm negligable amounts.

This is just alarmist nonsense.

Hundreds of millions of people jet off to the hottest areas of the globe for holidays and I am not seeing swathes of people coming back in coffins. Heat deaths are usually caused by stupidity than the actual heat. The person didn't hydrate correctly etc. Hell I know someone who works in a pharmacy and someone actually asked "Im going on holiday somewhere hot, can you recommend anything to keep me hydrated?"

Genuine question by an actual human being. So no, it isn't the heat, it's peoples stupid decisions made when the weather is hot. Billions every year survive hot summers absolutely fine.
SolidRecovery
2.1 / 5 (15) May 20, 2013
More sweaty back days for me on my way to work. :-(

Honestly, you don't know the heat of hell until you are waiting for the train in the middle of a NYC summer.
runrig
3.8 / 5 (10) May 20, 2013
I'd rather be in the heat than in the cold. Let's see how many people died trying to invade russia due to cold. Oh right, millions. How many died invading Africa back a couple hundred years ago, due to temperature, hmmm negligable amounts..... Hundreds of millions of people jet off to the hottest areas of the globe for holidays and I am not seeing swathes of people coming back in coffins. Heat deaths are usually caused by stupidity than the actual heat.


What's forced marching in wartime winter got to do with GW?
Heat stroke no - but have you ever noticed that in some parts of the world millions have died by starvation because of lack of rain to irrigate crops?
In a warming world there will be a more sluggish Jet-stream leading to climate shifts and effects on Monsoons. To say nothing rising seas ( at best ) leading to expensive defences down the line.
http://www.bbc.co...14785304
I do find a link between selfish, narrow minded thinking and Denialism on here.
antigoracle
1.2 / 5 (17) May 21, 2013
A while back I ran the numbers and projected an increase in baseless AGW Alarmist propaganda. Well, actually with the globe cooling and all of reality dispelling the myth that is the AGW dogma, anyone could foresee that more lies from the AGW cult was forthcoming. Still, it is sad to see me proven right. The only thing predictable about climate change is the AGW Alarmist cult, as they have been programmed to sing the same song/lies over and over, like the natural cycles found in climate.
http://notrickszo...refuges/
Neinsense99
2.1 / 5 (14) May 25, 2013
"A while back I ran the numbers and projected an increase in baseless AGW Alarmist propaganda." Sure you did. If you said 'rammed the numbers', it might fit your pattern of spewing talking points and discredited, cherry-picked malarkey.
deepsand
1.9 / 5 (17) May 25, 2013
more alarmist nonsense

Yes, but, why do you persist in posting such nonsense?
deepsand
1.9 / 5 (17) May 25, 2013
I'd rather be in the heat than in the cold. Let's see how many people died trying to invade russia due to cold. Oh right, millions. How many died invading Africa back a couple hundred years ago, due to temperature, hmmm negligable amounts.

This is just alarmist nonsense.

Hundreds of millions of people jet off to the hottest areas of the globe for holidays and I am not seeing swathes of people coming back in coffins. Heat deaths are usually caused by stupidity than the actual heat. The person didn't hydrate correctly etc. Hell I know someone who works in a pharmacy and someone actually asked "Im going on holiday somewhere hot, can you recommend anything to keep me hydrated?"

Genuine question by an actual human being. So no, it isn't the heat, it's peoples stupid decisions made when the weather is hot. Billions every year survive hot summers absolutely fine.

Spoken like a truly ignorant person, one who is totally clueless but doesn't let that stop him from pontificating.
deepsand
1.9 / 5 (17) May 25, 2013
A while back I ran the numbers and projected ...

Translation: AO ran his tongue through the same orifice as the one from which he extracts all of the dung that he here expels.

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