Weather and mortality

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:21 PM GMT on February 27, 2009

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Hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes get the attention-grabbing headlines when a natural disaster kills people in the U.S. Yet heat waves, cold winter weather, severe thunderstorm winds, and flooding all killed more people in the U.S. between 1970 and 2004, according to a December 2008 article published by Kevin Borden and Susan Cutter of the University of South Carolina. Tornadoes and lightning were tied for fifth place, and Hurricanes and earthquakes tied for eighth place. However, had this study extended one more year into 2005, the roughly 1800 hurricane deaths from Hurricane Katrina would have vaulted hurricane deaths into third place, behind heat wave deaths and cold weather deaths. The study also showed that people living in rural areas were most likely to die from a natural disaster than those living in cities.


Figure 1. U.S. deaths due to natural hazards between 1970 and 2004 showed that weather associated with extremes of hot and cold weather, along with severe thunderstorm winds (the "Severe Weather" category), killed the most people. Image credit: Spatial patterns of natural hazards mortality in the United States, International Journal of Health Geographics. Authors: Kevin Borden and Susan Cutter of the University of South Carolina.

The authors used Spatial Hazard Event and Loss Database for the United States (SHELDUS)(available at http://www.sheldus.org). This database provides hazard loss information (economic losses and casualties) from 1960-2005 for eighteen different hazard types, and is primarily based on data from the NOAA/National Climatic Data Center publication, "Storm Data". The numbers have high uncertainty, and the authors conclude, "There is considerable debate about which natural hazard is the most "deadly". According to our results, the answer is heat. But this finding could be changed depending on the data source, or how hazards within a data source are grouped."


Figure 2. U.S. deaths due to natural hazards for the 10- and 30-year period ending in 2007, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Image credit: NOAA.

To illustrate, a 2008 study by Thacker et al. called, "Overview of deaths associated with natural events, United States, 1979-2004", concluded that cold deaths were twice as common as heat deaths in the U.S. However, they noted that the 1995 Chicago heat wave, which killed between 600 and 700 people by some estimates, was not properly represented in the data base used in their study. This data base attributed only 50 deaths in the entire state of Illinois to heat in 1995. The authors conclude that their data base "under-reports the actual number of deaths due to severe heat".

Another example: NOAA plots up annual natural hazard deaths from the same source ("Storm Data") as the first study I montioned. Their statistics for the ten-year period ending in 2007 show a much different picture (Figure 2). Heat deaths are a much more dominant source of mortality than cold and winter storm deaths, by a factor 3.5. The take-home message from all this is that heat- and cold-related extreme weather are probably the deadliest weather hazards in the U.S., but we really don't know the proportion of people killed by each. One can easily cherry pick the study of one's choice to show a desired result.

How global warming might affect heat and cold-related deaths
If the globe continues to warm up this century, as predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), heat-related deaths will increase and cold-related deaths will decrease (duh!). Unfortunately, that's about the most intelligent thing one can say about the matter. The 2007 IPCC report (section 8.4.1.3, Heat- and cold-related mortality), does not attempt to estimate the numbers, saying, "Additional research is needed to understand how the balance of heat-related and cold-related mortality could change under different socio-economic scenarios and climate projections."

This high uncertainty in future heat- and cold-related deaths does not stop advocates on either side of the global warming issue from cherry picking results from selected studies to support a particular point of view. For example, opinion columnist George Will stated in a recent Newsweek column: "In Europe, cold kills more than seven times as many as heat does. Worldwide, moderate warming will, on balance, save more lives than it will cost--by a 9-to-1 ratio in China and India. So, if substantially cutting carbon dioxide reverses warming, that will mean a large net loss of life globally." Will bases his arguments on Danish statistician Bjørn Lomborg's controversial 2007 book, "Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming." However, as pointed out by Danish biologist Kåre Fog, who has assembled a large web site dedicated to pointing out the errors in Lomborg's books, the huge number of excess deaths attributed to cold by Will and Lomborg are in large part because the death rate naturally rises in the winter: "Old and seriously sick people have less vitality in the dark season. It is too bold to say that the excess deaths during the dark part of the year are `deaths due to excess cold?. There is no evidence that a warmer climate will alter the seasonal variation. These people would soon die in any case, even if winters became warmer. Indeed, cold and warm climates, like Finland and Greece, have approximately the same seasonal variation in mortality." The IPCC underscores this problem, stating: "projections of cold-related deaths, and the potential for decreasing their numbers due to warmer winters, can be overestimated unless they take into account the effects of influenza and season".

Heat wave deaths are subject to a degree of uncertainty as well. It is somewhat of a subjective call if an elderly person who dies during a heat wave died primarily as a result of the heat, or of a pre-existing heart or respiratory condition. Complicating the diagnosis is the fact that air pollution is at its worst during heat waves, and can also be blamed as the cause of death in some cases. Different studies will use different criteria for classify deaths due to heat, pollution, or pre-existing medical conditions during a heat wave, leading to widely varying estimates of mortality. For example, the European heat wave of 2003 is blamed for 35,000, 52,000, or 70,000 deaths, depending upon the source. You're more likely to hear the higher 70,000 figure quoted by advocates of doing something about global warming, and the 35,000 figure quoted by those opposed.

The three 2008 studies for the U.S. show the ratio of cold deaths to heat deaths ranges from 2:1 to 1:3, which is very different from the 7:1 and 9:1 figures quoted by Will and Lomborg for Europe, India, and China. I don't trust any of these numbers, since heat and cold mortality statistics are highly uncertain and easy to cherry pick to show a desired result. It is rather unproductive to argue about how many people die due to heat and cold in the current climate or in a future climate. Excess heat deaths due to climate change should not get as much attention as the potential for death due to reduction in crop yields due to increased heat and drought, regional collapses of the oceanic food chain from the steady acidification of the oceans, and the wars these conditions might trigger.

For more information
For those interested, Kåre Fog also presents a list of the errors in Al Gore's book and movie, An Inconvenient Truth, and has a Comparison of error counts between Al Gore and Bjørn Lomborg. Lomborg has assembled a Short reply to Skeptical Questions to respond to some of Fog's criticisms, but does not answer Fog's criticism on cold deaths vs. heat deaths. Suffice to say, one should be wary of trusting climate change information from either source, or from opinion columnists, or from politicians. Blogs can also be a questionable source of climate change information, though I think wunderground Climate Change blogger Dr. Ricky Rood is one of the most knowledgeable and unbiased climate change experts in the world. Though imperfect, the best source of climate change information is the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The level of scientific collaboration and peer review that went into that document is one of the most remarkable achievements in the history of science, and the IPCC was fully deserving of the Nobel Prize awarded to it last year. Blogs and books like Lomborg's and Gore's have not gone through peer-review by scientific experts on climate change, and will have far more errors, biases, and distortions of the truth than the IPCC reports.

Jeff Masters

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Thank you for your vocabulary clarification Orca -- I feel much better knowing a cosmic load of "waste" isn't going to take me out
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
Quoting surfmom:
I'm sorry -- but reading MASS MOVEMENT --geeze that just sounds scary --


Mass Movement

Mass movement is the down slope movement of earth materials under the influence of gravity. The detachment and movement of earth materials occurs if the stress imposed is greater than the strength of the material to hold it in place. ...... MORE
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Complete Blog Refresh
Mirror Site



Current Home weather station data.
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Quoting hahaguy:


im at least 100 miles from mcdill so that's why it's weird. and shoes?


Shoes> That would be the Panama thing more than 10 years ago. Emelda had a significant collection of shoes,however, her hubby was the problem, not her. I think
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
118. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
stocks should have been closed when Gustav made landfall on Labor Day.
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Quoting stillwaiting:
lulins up!!!
I believe mass movement="earthquakes"
Ossqss suggested landslides - That makes sense, earthquakes, maybe mud slides and avalanches. What about Coastal and Geophysical?

Going to check out my view - see what's up in the sky.
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lulins up!!!
I believe mass movement="earthquakes"
Member Since: October 5, 2007 Posts: 20 Comments: 4970
Quoting HTV:

On 9/12(Fri.) Dow Closed at 11422, on 9/15(Mon.) Dow closed at 10,918. That's 504 points. Ike hit 9/13, Saturday.


Mm. I think that can be related to the Hurricane.
How many points did the DOW hit in Gustav, (I think it was a tuesday landfall)
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24181
Quoting surfmom:
Tonight is my third attempt to snag this comet. I was given clear directions by my local WU buddy Stillwaiting -- trick is I have to say up late enough .............


Don't forget to wear Yellow
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
Quoting Ossqss:


I was in line with the Emelda Marcos dispatch. 29 C-130's went over, within 2000 Ft to get some shoes. I am South of McDill and get many opportunities to see the interesting things.


im at least 100 miles from mcdill so that's why it's weird. and shoes?
Member Since: August 12, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 2838
Quoting hahaguy:
The weirdest thing a few nights ago I was standing outside out my house and i could of swore that there was a military jet flying right over my house. And it was flying very low.


I was in line with the Emelda Marcos dispatch. 29 C-130's went over, within 2000 Ft to get some shoes. I am South of McDill and get many opportunities to see the interesting things.
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
The weirdest thing a few nights ago I was standing outside out my house and i could of swore that there was a military jet flying right over my house. And it was flying very low.
Member Since: August 12, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 2838
Quoting zoomiami:
Speaking of the skies - I came home late tonight & it was already dark. There was a beautiful crescent moon, with what looked at first like an airplane shining its lights right at the moon. It didn't move, so no plane. The local astronomy site says it Venus, at its brightest point. It was amazing, almost looked like Venus was sitting in the moon's lap.


Indeed, saw the same about an hour and change ago. Camphone did not do it justice. Bradenton FL, view was still awsome.
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
Speaking of the skies - I came home late tonight & it was already dark. There was a beautiful crescent moon, with what looked at first like an airplane shining its lights right at the moon. It didn't move, so no plane. The local astronomy site says it Venus, at its brightest point. It was amazing, almost looked like Venus was sitting in the moon's lap.
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Quoting hahaguy:


LMAO


Please ensure you understand there are no refunds here. It's Friday, have some fun. I just did. I entered a slot car race against folks who told me to "bring my own",,,,,and I did. They used 1/24 cars and I brought a compatible HO scale car and kicked their butts. Just for fun -- and I changed their paradigm. That's a healthy thing. Ofcourse, I am now banned.
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
Tonight is my third attempt to snag this comet. I was given clear directions by my local WU buddy Stillwaiting -- trick is I have to say up late enough .............
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
awww Mel -- you are right -- it's been nasty weather for you each time.... I could used that weather -- we are so dry down here... when it rains I'm just going to sit in it.....plus I'd get a day off of work
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
Quoting Ossqss:
I formally request we keep exlax out of the subject matter.

Google link Link


LMAO
Member Since: August 12, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 2838
I formally request we keep exlax out of the subject matter.

Google link Link
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
I think I'm gonna have to bail on this race...we're not on a small boat tomorrow but I am just not willing to take any chances - seems like the last several times out we've had crappy weather. Our circuit is every other week and it's just worked out that way. I think tomorrow sounds like a great day to just sit home and watch movies...

thanks guys! Back to being a couch potato!
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 12 Comments: 1837
Quoting KEHCharleston:
Evening folks,

Looking at the pie graph.
Could someone explain what is meant by Mass Movement, Coastal and Geophysical
How does one die of these things?



Landslide? Dunnah

Good question !
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
I'm sorry -- but reading MASS MOVEMENT --geeze that just sounds scary --
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
Evening folks,

Looking at the pie graph.
Could someone explain what is meant by Mass Movement, Coastal and Geophysical
How does one die of these things?
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Aloha Mel -- my goodness, seems like every time your ready to get in the boat there's threatening weather -- can't a girl sail in peace??
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
mel...small sailboats, open water and lightening are a bad mix....
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Cherry Pick your marathon if it's too hot or too cold. http://aimsworldrunning.org/medical.htm
Member Since: October 13, 2005 Posts: 4 Comments: 2156
Tropical Cyclone Warning Center Perth
Tropical Cyclone Advice Number TEN
TROPICAL LOW 09U
9:50 am WDT February 28 2009
===============================================

At 9:00 AM WDT, A TROPICAL LOW [998 hPa] located at 18.2S 118.6E, or 235 kms north of Port Hedland and 335 kms north northeast of Karratha has 10 minute sustained winds of 30 knots with gusts of 45 knots. The tropical low is reported as moving towards the south-southwest at 9 knots.

Widespread heavy rain is likely in the Pilbara during today as the system approaches the Pilbara coast, and significant flooding may result. Please refer to Flood Watch advices for more information.

The low remains weak but there is a chance it could develop into a tropical cyclone prior to making landfall. If the system does intensify into a tropical cyclone gales may develop in coastal areas late today.

Tropical Cyclone Warning
=======================
A Cyclone WARNING is current for coastal areas from Wallal to Onslow.

Next Tropical Cyclone Advice is at 1:00 PM WDT..
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http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Files.View&FileStore_id=84462e2d-6bff-4983-a574-31f 5ae8e8a42
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Check the Savannah wunderground page here Melissa.Link
And have that NOAA radio Handy and on-board at all times.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128667
Supposed to go out and race in the sailboat tomorrow (every two weeks)...do you think this crap is going to hit us here in Savannah in the afternoon? We are generally off the water by 4 but our skipper is a bit on the risky side so I would rather just call in sick if we're going to have an issue with lightning...

thanks...Melissa
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 12 Comments: 1837
758
fxus64 klix 272122
afdlix


Area forecast discussion
National Weather Service New Orleans la
322 PM CST Friday Feb 27 2009 Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128667
91. HTV
Quoting CybrTeddy:
Yea, I think the DOW dropped 300 something points During Hurricane Ike.

On 9/12(Fri.) Dow Closed at 11422, on 9/15(Mon.) Dow closed at 10,918. That's 504 points. Ike hit 9/13, Saturday.
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hmmmmmmmm
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
Complete Blog Refresh
Mirror Site



Current Home weather station data.
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Wow, we had a flash freeze today. Rain from last night and today melted the snow, causing puddles on the roads and sidewalks. This afternoon, all that water froze within about an hour of reaching the daytime high of about 9C (48F), and the winds gusted up to about 70 km/h. The rain froze up so fast that at one point during the day (actually, twice) I actually had to breathe on my bicycle lock to get to to open because it was frozen! Now, the temperature is closer to -7C (19F), and is expected to go down to -18C (0F) with a wind chill of -30C (-22F). So much for the end of February. LOL.
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Yea, I think the DOW dropped 300 something points During Hurricane Ike.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24181
I will leave you all on this note:

THE WORLD'S SHORTEST FAIRY TALE

Once upon a time, a guy asked a girl "Will you marry me?"

The girl said, "NO!"

And the guy lived happily ever after bloggin on the Wunderground site.

CUL8R
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
Quoting HadesGodWyvern:
His doctor confirmed he is dangerous, in terms of radioactivity.

odd news but with a serious charge against this person.


If indeed he is dangerous from treatments of that nature, he is not far from a dirt nap.
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
His doctor confirmed he is dangerous, in terms of radioactivity.

odd news but with a serious charge against this person.
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Quoting Patrap:
Just linking some news and all.

Heres a different one.

CNN.com Europe

UK police hunt for 'dangerously radioactive' teacher Link


That is crazy. Do you know how much radiation it would take to make you a problem for others. Like Chernobyl style exposure. I think they must be playing it up to have someone cough him up.

Link if your bored on the subject Link
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
Just linking some news and all.

Heres a different one.

CNN.com Europe

UK police hunt for 'dangerously radioactive' teacher Link
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Thanks for all the good info patrap
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Munich Re: Geo Risks Research: Storm surge major loss driver in 2008

27/02/2009 12:08 (13:45 minutes ago)Link

The FINANCIAL -- The very high natural catastrophe losses incurred in 2008 again show the crucial importance of risk research for the insurance industry. In its annual review published on February 27, "Topics Geo – Natural catastrophes 2008", Munich Re ’s geo risks experts take an in-depth look at Hurricane Ike – with losses of US$ 15bn, the industry’s most expensive natural catastrophe in 2008.

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128667
Tropical Cyclone Warning Center Perth
Tropical Cyclone Advice Number NINE
TROPICAL LOW 09U
6:50 am WDT February 28 2009
===============================================

At 6:00 AM WDT, A TROPICAL LOW [998 hPa] located at 17.7S 118.9E, or 295 kms north of Port Hedland and 400 kms north northeast of Karratha has 10 minute sustained winds of 30 knots with gusts of 45 knots. The tropical low is reported as moving towards the southwest at 9 knots.

Widespread heavy rain is likely in the Pilbara during today as the system approaches the Pilbara coast, and significant flooding may result. Please refer to Flood Watch advices for more information.

The low remains weak but there is a chance it could develop into a tropical cyclone prior to making landfall. If the system does intensify into a tropical cyclone GALES may develop in coastal areas late today or early Sunday.

Tropical Cyclone Warning
=======================
A Cyclone WARNING is current for coastal areas from Wallal to Exmouth.

Next Tropical Cyclone Advice is at 10:00 AM WDT..
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The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA)

CWPPRA's Restoration Projects Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128667
Wetland restoration Entry Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128667
Crop Workers Have Highest Heat-Related Death Rate
Link

CDC finds mostly foreign-born farm workers had rate 20 times higher than general work force,,

THURSDAY, June 19 (HealthDay News) -- Crop workers, most of them foreign-born, have the highest rate of death from heat-related illness, a new U.S. report released Thursday found.

From 1992 to 2006, 68 of the 423 workers in the United States who died from heat-related illness were involved in crop production, U.S. health officials said.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128667
Quoting Patrap:
Corps. Hurricane barrier project's cost rises
2/26/2009, 7:34 p.m. CST
By CAIN BURDEAU Link
The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Army Corps of Engineers said it will cost about $1.3 billion, or nearly twice as much as first thought, to build major barriers against hurricanes on the eastern flank of New Orleans.

Corps officials told the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development on Tuesday that the cost is going up because it has decided to make the structure safer for barge traffic to go through.

Previously, the corps said it would cost about $695 million to build a 2-mile long structure made of floodgates and robust floodwalls. The corps has made the storm surge barrier a top priority and said it represents one of the largest projects ever in corps history.


Another levee wont help if the marsh around it continues to erode...
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Corps. Hurricane barrier project's cost rises
2/26/2009, 7:34 p.m. CST
By CAIN BURDEAU Link
The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Army Corps of Engineers said it will cost about $1.3 billion, or nearly twice as much as first thought, to build major barriers against hurricanes on the eastern flank of New Orleans.

Corps officials told the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development on Tuesday that the cost is going up because it has decided to make the structure safer for barge traffic to go through.

Previously, the corps said it would cost about $695 million to build a 2-mile long structure made of floodgates and robust floodwalls. The corps has made the storm surge barrier a top priority and said it represents one of the largest projects ever in corps history.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128667
The relationships between temperature and mortality are not that simple. For example, many more people die from heat in Toronto than Phoenix! The most vulnerable cities are cold places like Chicago...on the other hand, nobody ever dies from the heat in Miami. So, it's not a given that global warming will increase heat-related mortality. Heat-related mortality is caused by variability...not intensity.
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Quoting captainhunter:
60. pottery

Thanks Pottery. I'll see if I can find it. I enjoy sippable rums as I don't drink soft drinks and nothing else really mixes well with rum.


Dang--when I lived on a sailboat, mango juice, fresh key lime juice and a light rum tasted perfect! Of course, this was in the Keys and on a boat so location bias must be taken into account....
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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