268079 Effects of Climate Change and Extreme Heat in the Midwest: New Analysis of the Past 60 Years of Heat Waves

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Elizabeth Perera, MPH , Climate and Energy Program, Union of Concerned Scientists, Washington, DC
Jalonne White-Newsome, PhD , Climate and Energy Program, Union of Concerned Scientists, Washington, DC
Todd Sanford, PhD , Climate and Energy Program, Union of Concerned Scientists, Washington, DC
Larry Kalkstein, PhD , Research Professor - Department of Geography and Regional Studies, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL
Heat waves already kill more people in the U.S. each year than hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and lightening combined. The 20 warmest years in the U.S. have occurred since 1981. Ten of the warmest years occurred in the past 12 years. According to climate models, these dangerous trends in extreme heat in the US are projected to increase in the coming decades. Those most impacted will be populations vulnerable to extreme weather conditions, like the elderly, the young and those populations not acclimatized to extreme heat (such as those in the northern parts of the US). This research analyzes historical heat wave data over the last sixty years in order to evaluate trends useful for public health preparedness. Using a proven climate classification system, the research focuses on five norther tier midwest cities (Chicago, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Detroit and Minneapolis) and evaluates the frequency, character and duration of the air masses associated with extreme heat over the last 60 years. In order to evaluate possible Urban Heat Island effects, a suburban or rural local has also been analyzed for each city as well. Using a proven synoptic air mass classification system, this research analyzes the frequency of the hotter air masses and how they have increased in these midwest cities. In addition, the character and duration of those air masses has also be examined to further inform public health preparedness. For example, research has shown that people are particularly sensitive to increased nighttime temperatures and therefore this analysis evaluates possible increases in nighttime temperatures. This research also looks at possible associated excess mortality during these heat events. These changes have significant implications for public health preparedness particularly in populations most vulnerable to extreme heat.

Learning Areas:
Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Environmental health sciences
Public health or related education
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
1) Analyze the statistical trends in the increases in dangerously warm air masses associated with extreme heat exposure 2) Analyze the frequency, duration and character of these dangerously warm air masses using the synoptic classification system 3) Evaluate the excess mortality associated with those dangerous air masses 4) Discuss how local public health officials can better prepare for these dangerously warm air masses taking into account warmer night time temperatures etc.

Keywords: Climate Change, Environmental Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been the co-researcher of research projects focusing on climate change and health at the Union of Concerned Scientists for the last two years and our current project is focused on extreme heat. I am the lead author on our first report in the UCS Climate Change and Health Series entitled: Rising Temperatures, Worsening Ozone Pollution.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.