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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Quoting Patrap:
Winter Weather Preparedness Link



A major winter storm can be lethal. Preparing for cold weather conditions and responding to them effectively can reduce the dangers caused by winter storms.

Blizzards are severe winter storms that pack a combination of blowing snow and wind resulting in very low visibilities. While heavy snowfalls and severe cold often accompany blizzards, they are not required. Sometimes strong winds pick up snow that has already fallen, creating a blizzard.


From 1986 to 2004, the over a thousand deaths have been attributed to winter weather in the United States.



Do the stats include traffic fatalities?
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8185


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127631
Winter Weather Preparedness Link



A major winter storm can be lethal. Preparing for cold weather conditions and responding to them effectively can reduce the dangers caused by winter storms.

Blizzards are severe winter storms that pack a combination of blowing snow and wind resulting in very low visibilities. While heavy snowfalls and severe cold often accompany blizzards, they are not required. Sometimes strong winds pick up snow that has already fallen, creating a blizzard.


From 1986 to 2004, the over a thousand deaths have been attributed to winter weather in the United States.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127631
Quoting Orcasystems:


Link




Oregon Scientific
WMR968 Complete Wireless Weather Station
With Touch Screen


Thanks, same brand as my 12 year old unit that is dying a slow death.
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HURRICANES AND RELATED DEATHS IN THE UNITED STATES, 1990-2007 Link
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Quoting TampaSpin:
Talk about Global Warming! We are about to see and go through a Global Meltdown by our standards of living. Bet, gardens will become a real thing again.


they already are!
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
Quoting Ossqss:


Looking to get a new weather station, any suggestions Mr. Orca? What are you using?


Link




Oregon Scientific
WMR968 Complete Wireless Weather Station
With Touch Screen
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Quoting Orcasystems:
Complete Blog Refresh
Mirror Site



Current Home weather station data.


Looking to get a new weather station, any suggestions Mr. Orca? What are you using?
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First it snows on RTLSNK.. then it melts.

Statement as of 11:20 PM EST on March 01, 2009

... Flood Warning extended until Wednesday afternoon... the Flood
Warning continues for
the Ocmulgee River near Macon
* until Wednesday afternoon
* at 11 PM Sunday the stage was 21.1 feet... and slowly rising
* minor flooding is occurring and minor flooding is forecast to
continue
* flood stage is 18.0 feet
* the river will continue rising to near 21.3 feet by Monday
morning. The river will fall below flood stage Wednesday morning.
* At 21.0 feet... minor flooding continues. Much of the Macon Greenway
Ocmulgee heritage trail will flood north of the fifth street
bridge. Agricultural flooding increase north and south of Macon.
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
Complete Blog Refresh
Mirror Site



Current Home weather station data.
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
Quoting presslord:
Post 445....Who's that ugly guy in the picture?!?!?!


It looks like the Southern Abdominal SnowSnake.
It sure doesn't look happy.. what ever it is.
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
Post 445....Who's that ugly guy in the picture?!?!?!
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eastern LI has 12" already!!
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Quoting P451:
In Central NJ I've measured many areas of 11 inches (lowest was 10) and numerous areas of 15 inches (highest was 16) and everything inbetween. So I'd conclude 13 inches have fallen.

With the ULL cranking up I wouldn't be surprised to finish around 15-17 inches in total.

Very nice storm. It's great out there.



ALOT of those measurments are drifts,in NYC I bet they end up with 6-10 inches,with up to 16" North and east of the city,which is different than the usual North and west of the city for the "heavy" STUFF
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Quoting kladdsimon:
Does the owner of this blog mind if i posted something about my website, stormgeeks.com



kladdsimon are you looking forword too be kick off dr m blog for spaming your site you have been hit with ! so many time that you no oh would have done some in about by now and not too be rude but you dont need to keep posting it this is the main blog if you want too post your site put it in your own blog not here spaming it on the main blog you can get ban for doing that and you dont want too that do you??? so kepp your site on you own blog
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455. IKE
Here's some good news with the economy...consumer spending rises in January

Maybe that will help the market.
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Yea, Winter's Last Hurrah in Florida... I hope.
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453. IKE
Quoting conchygirl:
Morning: Hard to believe a brisk 37 here this morning. Should warm up nicely and I keep saying our last cold front but we shall see! Hardly any rain at all!


conchygirl...looks like mild weather for the eastern USA returns by midweek. Maybe another cool down starts in about 10 days....end of next week. Til then it's dry and a warming trend in the SE USA.
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Morning: Hard to believe a brisk 37 here this morning. Should warm up nicely and I keep saying our last cold front but we shall see! Hardly any rain at all!
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451. IKE
Quoting CybrTeddy:


Ever closer. And the seasons doesn't look promising, similar to 2008 in my opinion.


Maybe an eastern GOM and east coast season.
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Quoting IKE:
90 days....
17 hours...
16 minutes....and it starts...........


Ever closer. And the seasons doesn't look promising, similar to 2008 in my opinion.
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well here in the northeast any thoughts of spring have been stored away for a while
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448. IKE
Quoting TampaSpin:
Europe DJ Stoxx -190.75 -10.77% 1,699.11 3/2 1:47pm

Germany MDAX -459.32 -9.97% 4,492.65 3/2 1:47pm


Germany TECDAX -51.84 -11.67% 428.15 3/2 1:47pm

DOW futures...
Dow -134.00 -1.90% 6,918.00
NASDAQ -21.50 -1.92% 1,095.50
S&P -16.20 -2.21% 718.00





AIG....62 BILLION dollar loss.

Get ready for under 7 grand on the NYSE.
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Talk about Global Warming! We are about to see and go through a Global Meltdown by our standards of living. Bet, gardens will become a real thing again.
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439
Europe DJ Stoxx -190.75 -10.77% 1,699.11 3/2 1:47pm

Germany MDAX -459.32 -9.97% 4,492.65 3/2 1:47pm


Germany TECDAX -51.84 -11.67% 428.15 3/2 1:47pm

DOW futures...
Dow -134.00 -1.90% 6,918.00
NASDAQ -21.50 -1.92% 1,095.50
S&P -16.20 -2.21% 718.00



Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439
Here is a weather event you don't get to see very often, Snow in Macon, Georgia yesterday!
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Was this technically a blizzard?
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443. IKE
90 days....
17 hours...
16 minutes....and it starts...........
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OMJ we got like half a foot of snow!!!!!!
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WE received so little rain from this front -- a real teaser -- checked the radar maps out yesterday and planned a cool run -- head out before the cold front, watched it approach and then watched it pass over head (while running)..... by checking the radar (thanks Aqua) I was able to see there wasn't that much rain -- so while I'd get wet -- it wasn't going to be a torrential downpour.

Understood a storm chaser for the first time -- it was rather exciting (though much safer) to be participating with the weather -- had the timing down perfectly -- and running in what little rain we had felt marvelous!
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
Good morning.
44F here this morning....a little colder than forecast.

No kidding about the wind Surfmom...it kept waking me up last night. Seems to have settled down now but it will start cranking again once it starts to warm up.

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here comes those winds... they seemed to have quieted -- but it's looks like Northwest winds today - 25 knots? Some Gale force .... not a day for me to go surfing -- sometimes it's Men Only.
The all important Monday am wind call: Wish I had a positive feeling for the 10 second NW swell that will be in the water on Monday, but there's a 1000mb low off Hatteras and 1040 High over Wisconsin, that spells honking NNW winds at 20mph for your DP. Put it this way: The winds gonna suck today and that's all there is to it. If you have to go to work or school don't feel bad, another GC winter on it's last leg..

Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
some interesting late night post....

Good morning -- dawn is just starting to peek through the night. Waking to 51 degrees I thought it would be colder -- the wind howled all night.
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European Stocks are now down over 3.8%

FTSE 100
(FTSE: ^FTSE)
Index Value: 3,683.61
Trade Time: 5:58am ET
Change: Down 146.48 (3.82%)
Prev Close: 3,830.09
Open: 3,830.09
Day's Range: 3,680.15 - 3,830.09
52wk Range: 3,665.20 - 6,377.00


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Thank you Dr. Master's
I've been telling people for years to not take the Winter Weather lightly. I've seen first hand how dangerous the Winter's can be in the North where I live. I am surprised though as I had been hearing from sources who were suppose to know what they are talking about that Lightning was the number one killer in natural disasters. You numbers say otherwise. I can't argue the point as I only have what others have said to compare with. The fact that heat is a major killer has been demonstrated several times through out USA history going back to the 20's and 30's to present. Though it seems that tends to go in cycles. Obviously we had a few really bad years recently here in the Upper Midwest where a number of elderly folk died in the summer. People are more cautious now and make the effort to check on people who tend to be more vulnerable because of what has happened over that last 5 years. There really is no reason for anyone to die because of heat with today's technology so long as the young and healthy take the time to check up on the very young and the aged who are vulnerable. Winter is another matter. Some people die for the same reasons as with the heat, then there are those who died because they didn't take the Winter storms seriously and got themselves in to trouble. Been there, done that and I must say that I'm lucky to still be here today. I learned my lesson well when I was still young and it counted. I don't take chances anymore.

Just one other thing, I think that the estimates on the numbers of people who will die in the future from hot or cold weather ignores human intelligence, the will to survive, and the advancement of technology. I don't believe it reasonable to make these kinds of estimates based just one past records. That's an over simplification of what's really going on and in my humble opinion lowers us to the intelligence of the animals. I hope that we are far smarter than that.
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Quoting natrwalkn:
Interesting thing living in coastal Carolina... we have snowstorms and tropical cyclones, most usually just miss us, and forecasters have a hard time with both.


And nobody ever pays us any attention.
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This is sooo refreshing, bring on the chill. I am so dreading yet another summer here, yuck. Did yesterday's snow storm bring flurries to anywhere within Florida borders?
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Interesting thing living in coastal Carolina... we have snowstorms and tropical cyclones, most usually just miss us, and forecasters have a hard time with both.
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431. Skyepony (Mod)
I don't see Australia market recovering overnight. They are in disaster fatigue mode. 95S brought more crazy bad flooding. That followed 10 mines contaminating a large area from previous flooding. This coming tuesday is forecasted to be as bad as their black saturday & ash wednesday events. To top it off a hundred or so from huge sperm whales to dolphins died beaching themselves. They are working feverishly trying to save another 50 or so.
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Ah. . . . lovely heavy rain; first downpour is moderating now, but it sounds great. Should sleep well tonight lol.

Only downside to this is the below 70 degree temps forecast for tomorrow. . . . bummer.
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Interesting to be sitting here and hearing the thunder from that line of showers . . .

I hope we do get some rain from it, and not just a few loud booms.

'Nite all!
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Go to my web site for current Graphics.....

http://tampaspinsweather.webs.com/index.htm
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439


Good Nite....
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439
Four inches of snow in richmond va, hitting the dry slot now. does anyone care? I can go to other websites to whine about the economy.
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Its how it closes, not how it opens. Hold on.

What is happening with our snow fall in the NE. Looks like the heavy stuff is off shore now. ?????
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Quoting conchygirl:
YEP!!!


Tomorrow is going to be very rough ride......here it the Futures Market for the DOW

Dow -90.00 -1.28% 6,962.00
NASDAQ -20.25 -1.81% 1,096.75
S&P -11.80 -1.61% 722.40


Here is the current Asian and Aussie Markets that are open....
Australia ASX 100 -80.70 -2.92% 2,680.90 3/2 2:57pm
Australia ASX All Ords -92.20 -2.80% 3,204.70 3/2 2:56pm
Australia ASX Mid-cap 50 -93.90 -3.23% 2,815.30 3/2 2:56pm
Hong Kong Hang Seng -487.46 -3.80% 12,324.11 3/2 11:57am

Japan Nikkei 225 -298.64 -3.95% 7,269.78

Translation.....Big time loss tomorrow on the Big Board if these markets don't turn around over nite.....
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Quoting kladdsimon:
Does the owner of this blog mind if i posted something about my website, stormgeeks.com


you just did !
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Quoting TampaSpin:
God help us tomorrow.....the Asian markets are taking a pounding....OH my!

Hong Kong Hang Seng -430.07 -3.36% 12,381.50
YEP!!!
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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.