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Climate Change and Heat-Related Excess Mortality in the Eastern USA

Abstract

Climate change will increase extreme heat-related health risks. To quantify the health impacts of mid-century climate change, we assess heat-related excess mortality across the eastern USA. Health risks are estimated using the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Benefits Mapping and Analysis Program (BenMAP). Mid-century temperature estimates, downscaled using the Weather Research and Forecasting model, are compared to 2007 temperatures at 36 km and 12 km resolutions. Models indicate the average apparent and actual summer temperatures rise by 4.5° and 3.3° C, respectively. Warmer average apparent temperatures could cause 11,562 additional annual deaths (95% confidence interval, CI: 2641–20,095) due to cardiovascular stress in the population aged 65 years and above, while higher minimum temperatures could cause 8767 (95% CI: 5030–12,475) additional deaths each year. Modeled future climate data available at both coarse (36 km) and fine (12 km) resolutions predict significant human health impacts from warmer climates. The findings suggest that currently available information on future climates is sufficient to guide regional planning for the protection of public health. Higher resolution climate and demographic data are still needed to inform more targeted interventions.

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Acknowledgements

Research was supported by the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Grant 1R21ES020232-01. V.L. was also supported by NSF Grant DGE-0549407, an Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) titled “Vulnerability and Sustainability in Coupled Human-Natural Systems.” TH and MH were also supported by the NASA Air Quality Applied Sciences Team (AQAST). We acknowledge the North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program (NARCCAP) and the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) for providing the data used in this paper. NARCCAP is funded by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Research and Development. The NCDC provided North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR) data from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), a division of NOAA/National Weather Service.

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Correspondence to Vijay S. Limaye.

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Limaye, V.S., Vargo, J., Harkey, M. et al. Climate Change and Heat-Related Excess Mortality in the Eastern USA. EcoHealth 15, 485–496 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10393-018-1363-0

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Keywords

  • Heat wave
  • Heat stress
  • Climate modeling
  • Health impact assessment
  • Downscaling
  • Scenario
  • Climate change