Our Weather

The weather is getting harder to handle.


Heat domes and heat waves are challenging human survival.

How is the environment changing?

  • Climate change brings increasing numbers of extreme heat days, increasing duration of heat waves, and higher peak temperatures.

Source: EPA: Extreme Heat Guidebook.

  • In Tucson, in June, 2017, people experienced a record-setting seven consecutive days with highs above 110 degrees, the longest streak in the city history. Since 1980, hot days have become more common with an additional three weeks of 100 degree or higher weather than in 1980.

Source: Pacific Standard: The Science Behind Arizona’s Record-setting Heatwave.

 How is our health affected?

  • Excessive heat is the leading weather-related killer in the United States.  This is especially true in cities where population density, the urban heat island, and building construction exacerbate the effects of excessive heat.

Source: NOAA’s National Weather Service. Accessed 07/24/17. https://www.weather.gov/phi/heatcond

  • A study projecting future deaths from heat and cold in 209 U.S. cities with a total population of over 160 million inhabitants, without any adjustments for future adaptation, found a total net increase of 2,000 to 10,000 deaths per year compared to a 1990 baseline.

Source:  Schwartz, J. D., and others, 2015: Projections of temperature-attributable premature deaths in 209 U.S. cities using a cluster-based Poisson approach. Environmental Health, 14.

  • Emergency room visits for heat illnesses increased by 133% between 1997 and 2006; almost half of these patients were children and adolescents.  (MML)

Source: Dr. Samanthan Ahdoot, lead author, American Academy of Pediatrics’ Policy on Climate Change, Pediatric Associates of Alexandria (writing in Climate Change: Medical Alert Report).

  • Heat effects are greater in the spring and early summer, and cold effects greater in late fall. Heat effects are also greater in places where high temps are less common: it’s less about changes in mean temperature, and more about how unusual the temperature is for a given time and location.  For example, extreme heat in April causes an almost 9% increase in mortality, whereas extreme heat in July causes a less than 1% increase in mortality.

Source:  Environmental Health, Acclimatization across space and time in the effects of temperature on mortality, Lee et al. 2014 13:89).

  • Increasing temperatures will make it too hot to work jobs that involve prolonged physical labor. Because of heat stress, US labor productivity in agricultural and other sectors would decline by .6 to 3.2% by end of century in high emissions scenario.   

Source: Houser T, Hsiang SM, Kopp RE, Larsen K, Delgado M, et al. 2015. Labor. In Economic Risks of Climate Change: An American Prospectus, pp. 67-74. New York: Columbia Univ. Press).

  • Vulnerable populations are particularly affected: Non-Hispanic Blacks are 2.5 times more likely to experience heat-related mortality compared to non-Hispanic Whites.  Older adults experience increased risk for respiratory and cardiovascular death during temperature extremes.  Pregnant women are vulnerable: preterm birth has been associated with extreme heat. Extreme heat events are also associated with adverse birth outcomes, such as low birth weight and infant mortality.

Source: US Global Climate Change Research Program 2016 Climate and Health Assessmenthttps://health2016.globalchange.gov/about.


Extreme heat affects mental health.

  • Rising temperature and humidity are associated with increases in emergency department visits for mental health concerns.

Source: Vida, S, Durocher, M, Ouarda, TB, and Gosselin, P. Relationship between ambient temperature and humidity and visits to mental health emergency departments in Quebec. Psych Serv. 2012; 63: 1150–1153.

  • Increased rates of aggression and violent suicide are correlated with increases in ambient temperature.

Source:Susanta Kumar Padhy, Sidharth Sarkar, Mahima Panigrahi,1 and Surender Paul     2015.  Mental health effects of climate change.  Indian J Occup Environ Med. 2015 Jan-Apr; 19(1): 3–7.

  • Heat waves have been associated with mood disorders, anxiety disorders, dementia and anxiety related disorders among others.

Source: Climate change and mental health: a causal pathways framework. Berry HL, Bowen K, Kjellstrom T Int J Public Health. 2010 Apr; 55(2):123-32.

  • Suicides, especially violent ones, are more common with the recent increase in temperatures

Source: Seasonality and climatic associations with violent and nonviolent suicide: a population-based study. Lin HC, Chen CS, Xirasagar S, Lee HC Neuropsychobiology. 2008; 57(1-2):32-7.

With more energy and water in our atmosphere, hurricanes and tornados are intensifying.

How is the environment changing?

  • Models project nearly a doubling of the frequency of category 4 and 5 storms by the end of the 21st century, despite a decrease in the overall frequency of tropical cyclones.

Source: Morris A. Bender, Thomas R. Knutson, Robert E. Tuleya, Joseph J. Sirutis, Gabriel A. Vecchi, Stephen T. Garner, Isaac M. Held. Modeled Impact of Anthropogenic Warming on the Frequency of Intense Atlantic Hurricanes 22 January 2010 Vol 327 Science www.sciencemag.org.

 How is our health affected?

  • There is a projected 30% increase in potential damage in the Atlantic basin by 2100 due to the increase in category 4 and 5 storms.

Source: NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory. May 17, 2017. “Global Warming and Hurricanes” https://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/global-warming-and-hurricanes/.

  • Deaths

    • Hurricane Katrina was responsible for971 deaths in Louisiana and 15 deaths among Katrina evacuees in other states.

Source:Brunkard J, Namulanda G, Ratard R. “Hurricane Katrina deaths, Louisiana, 2005.Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2008 Dec;2(4):215-23. doi: 10.1097/DMP.0b013e31818aaf55.

  • Superstorm Sandy, October 2012 was responsible for 117 deaths.

Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6220a1.htm

  • Mental health

    • A study of internally displaced women living in temporary housing after Hurricane Katrina found reported rates of suicide attempt to be 78.6 times the regional average. In the 6 months following 1992’s Hurricane Andrew, the rate of homicide-suicides doubled in Miami-Dade County. Three months after Hurricane Andrew, 38% of children age 8 to 12 living in affected areas of south Florida reported symptom levels consistent with a probable diagnosis of PTSD.

Source: “Effects of Climate Change on Mental Health and Well-being” https://health2016.globalchange.gov/mental-health-and-well-being/content/effects-climate-change-mental-health-and-well-being.

  • Disproportionate impact on older people and people of color

    • Almost half of deaths from Hurricane Katrina were people over age 75, while for Superstorm Sandy almost half ‘were over age 65.  The Black adult mortality rate from Hurricane Katrina was 1.7 to 4 times higher than that of whites.

Source:Brunkard J, Namulanda G, Ratard R. “Hurricane Katrina deaths, Louisiana, 2005.Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2008 Dec;2(4):215-23. doi: 10.1097/DMP.0b013e31818aaf55.

Increase in Extreme Precipitation, Flooding, and Drought

How is the environment changing?

  • The U.S. experienced $4 billion inland flood events during 2016, doubling the previous record, as no more than two inland flood events have occurred in a year since 1980.

Source: NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) U.S. Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters (2017). https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions. Accessed June 16, 2017.

  • Drought is increasing. Within the last decade, drought conditions have hit the South, the Midwest, and the West.  In 2013, California had the driest year on record.

Source:https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/monitoring-content/sotc/national/2013/ann/Significant_Weather_US2013.gif. Accessed 6/8/2017.

  • In 2011–12, a pan-continental drought spanned 62% of the contiguous USA land area, exceeding the historical 99th percentile for drought size and affecting nearly 150 million people.

Source: Cook BI, Smerdon JE, Seager R, Cook ER. Pan-continental droughts in North America over the last millennium. J Clim 2013; 27: 383–97.

  • The Southwest is considered one of the more sensitive regions in the world for increased risk of drought caused by climate change.

Source: Sheffield, Justin, and Eric F. Wood. “Projected changes in drought occurrence under future global warming from multi-model, multi-scenario, IPCC AR4 simulations.” Climate Dynamics 31.1 (2008): 79–105.

 How is our health affected?

  • Climate related disasters such as floods are often associated with stress-related psychiatric disorders. Individuals who have been exposed to life threatening situations are at a considerable risk of developing posttraumatic stress disorder. Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder appeared in the New Orleans workforce following Hurricane Katrina.

Source: DeSalvo KB, Hyre AD, Ompad DC, Menke A, Tynes LL, Muntner PJ Urban Health. 2007 Mar; 84(2):142-52

  • When drought escalated to periods of “high severity worsening” conditions, mortality risk increased by 1.55% in adults 65 and older in western USA from 2000 to 2013.

Source: Jesse D Berman, Keita Ebisu, Roger D Peng, Francesca Dominici, Michelle L Bell Drought and the risk of hospital admissions and mortality in older adults in western USA from 2000 to 2013: a retrospective study. Vol. 1: e17–25. April 2017.


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