Saturday, November 9, 2013

Heat waves in Eastern US will become deadlier, study says

Brian Bienkowski in Environmental Health News: Heat waves will kill about 10 times more people in the Eastern United States in 45 years than they did at the turn of this century, according to a new projection from researchers.

The study builds on previous research that predicts as climate change spurs more frequent heat waves, there will be more heat-related deaths. It is the first study to project future heat wave deaths across an entire region.

"Estimates suggest that mortality risks from future heat waves may be an order of magnitude higher than in 2002-2004,” says the study, which was published online this week in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The researchers used two climate change projections for the Eastern third of the United States. Both assume that emissions will increase, but at different rates. One scenario projects “low-medium” greenhouse gas emissions and one projects a “more extreme” scenario, similar to today’s rate. Under the “low-medium” scenario, heat wave-related deaths would increase by 1,403 per year compared with 3,556 under the more dire projection, according to the study.

An estimated 187 people in the Eastern United States died of causes related to heat waves per year during 2002-2004. Nationwide, about 660 people die each year from heat waves, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The large disparity between the projections suggests “curtailing emission will have a great impact on the reduction of heat wave mortality in the future,” wrote the authors, led by Emory University environmental health scientists....

The 2009 Atlanta Pride parade, shot by Jason Riedy, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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