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Examining the diurnal temperature range enigma: why is human health related to the daily change in temperature?

  • Robert E. DavisEmail author
  • David M. Hondula
  • Humna Sharif
Original Paper
  • 34 Downloads

Abstract

An increasing number of epidemiological studies are finding statistical evidence that diurnal temperature range (DTR) is positively correlated to human morbidity and mortality despite the lack of clear clinical understanding. We examine a 14-year daily time series of emergency department (ED) admissions to the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, Virginia, relative to long-term climate records from the Charlottesville/Albemarle County Airport weather station and the Spatial Synoptic Classification. DTR has a consistent strong positive correlation (r ~ 0.5) with maximum temperature in all months but only a weak, negative correlation (r ~− 0.1) with minimum temperature except in late summer (r ~− 0.4). Warm season DTR is highest on dry air mass days with low dew point temperatures. Cool season DTR is unrelated to morning temperature. Using a distributed lag non-linear model with an emphasis on DTR and its seasonal variation, after stratifying the models by season, we find that ED visits are linked to extreme cold events (cold days and nights) and high DTR in the cold season. In the warm season, ED visits are also linked to high DTR, but these are cool, dry, and pleasant days. The existing confusion regarding interpretation of DTR impacts on health might be rectified through a more careful analysis of the underlying physical factors that drive variations in DTR over the course of a year.

Keywords

Diurnal temperature range Emergency department visits Seasonality Morbidity Distributed lag non-linear model Temperature variability Spatial Synoptic Classification 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We extend our thanks to Jerry Stenger and Wendy Novicoff (University of Virginia) for their assistance with accessing the climate and health data, respectively, and Scott Sheridan (Kent State University) for running the SSC for Charlottesville. We greatly appreciate the feedback we received from two external reviewers as well as their time and effort in reviewing this research.

Compliance with ethical standards

Statement of informed consent

For this type of study, formal consent is not required as the subjects were de-identified and examined in aggregate.

Supplementary material

484_2019_1825_MOESM1_ESM.docx (791 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 791 kb)

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Copyright information

© ISB 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental SciencesUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA
  2. 2.School of Geographical Sciences and Urban PlanningArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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