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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Severe lol another great clip
Member Since: August 12, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 2838
Drakoen,
There is a term for that,
Its called Dynamic Cooling. ;)
Member Since: September 7, 2008 Posts: 17 Comments: 1604
Nice animation of the storm system. The upper level cold pocket aloft with surface support to induce snow showers over the southeast.
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LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Member Since: September 7, 2008 Posts: 17 Comments: 1604
When I saw it the first time I was crying I was laughing so hard!
Member Since: September 7, 2008 Posts: 17 Comments: 1604
severe that one is the best lol
Member Since: August 12, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 2838
315. JRRP
jajajajajajajajajajajajajjajajajajajajajajajajajajajajajajajajaja omgggggggggg !!!! jjajaja
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Ossgss this is the BEST weatherman blooper! ROFL!!!

Member Since: September 7, 2008 Posts: 17 Comments: 1604
Melwerle it looks like snow is on the way for ya.
Member Since: September 7, 2008 Posts: 17 Comments: 1604
Hi everyone. Just dropped in to see what is going on with everyone. Warm in Cayman. Mid 80's but that cold front should reach us later tonight so temps should drop to low 70's maybe upper 60's. Low last night here was 69. Warm for you all but "chilly" for us.
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hahaguy, yep our high temeperature was first
thing in the morning, it was 39. It dropped
to 36 when it snowed, then it rose back up to
37-38 right now and the snow has subsided. Starting around 4:30 I predict that the temperatures are gonna resume dropping and we can
get more snow, especially since a county right
above us (2 miles away) is now under a winter storm warning. This is all amazing to me as just yesterday we were under a tornado warning
and had temperatures of almost 80 degrees, plus
we NEVER get snow.
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Just as I thought most of the rain dried up from the front at least the good thing is the temp dropped from 79 to 69 in the past 2 hrs
Member Since: August 12, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 2838
Wow! We just got a snowstorm here and I live
in central georgia! This is our first time getting snow in 7 years. I can barely type
my hands are so ice cold :) What a wonderful time :)
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It's starting to get dark here
Member Since: August 12, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 2838
Quoting TampaSpin:
Here is the Forecast track of the LOW...a perfect TRUE NorEaster LOw. first one of the year.....Finally...LOL




with any luck this w/be a trend for march???
Member Since: October 5, 2007 Posts: 20 Comments: 4970
Quoting charlottefl:
Really Nasty winds here in SWFL. Looks like we have two pre frontal squall lines. This is the first, second is on it's way. Sky looks really nasty..


second line is actually the front itself!!
Member Since: October 5, 2007 Posts: 20 Comments: 4970
Wow, that nor'easter looks pretty severe, tornadoes AND snow! New York, Boston, and New Brunswick look like they will get hammered with the snow. Here in S. Ontario, other than the remnants of snowbanks, which have melted and re-frozen, there is no snow on the ground! None! I can see grass and pavement all over! I saw Comet Lulin last night again, it resembled a miniture version of Comet Holmes from 2007. However, just because there is no snow doesn't mean it isn't cold...tomorrow morning will be -19C (-2F), with wind chill close to -29C (-20F)! It's expected to warm up later in the week, and only then will we get ANY snow...from an offshoot of the Pacific system no less, and interspersed with rain, ice pellets, and melting/refreezing. That's March for ya. Last year, in early March, we had 33 cm (13 in) of snow in one night. Doesn't look like it's happening this year. Bring on the spring weather and the severe thunderstorms!
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Another interesting tid-bit as I depart. Be well.

Subject: D9) What causes each hurricane to have a different maximum wind speed for a given minimum sea-level pressure ?
Contributed by Chris Landsea

The basic horizontal balance in a tropical cyclone above the boundary layer is between the sum of the Coriolis 'acceleration' and the centripetal 'acceleration', balanced by the horizontal pressure gradient force. This balance is referred to as gradient balance, where the Coriolis 'acceleration' is defined as the horizontal velocity of an air parcel, v, times the Coriolis parameter , f. Centripetal 'force' is defined as the acceleration on a parcel of air moving in a curved path, directed toward the center of curvature of the path, with magnitude v2/r, where v is the horizontal velocity of the parcel and r the radius of curvature of the path. The centripetal force alters the original two-force geostrophic balance and creates a non-geostrophic gradient wind. The reason that different peak winds can result in different central pressures is caused by the fact that the radius, r, of the peak wind varies. A storm with 40 m/s peak winds with a 100 km RMW will have a much lower pressure drop than one with a 25 km RMW
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8185
Quoting hahaguy:


it would be a cat 2 cause they go by ground level


found it

The OAR uses a 1 min averaging time for reporting the sustained (i.e. relatively long-lasting) winds. The maximum sustained wind mentioned in the advisories that NHC issues for tropical storms and hurricanes are the highest 1 min surface winds occurring within the circulation of the system. These "surface" winds are those observed (or, more often, estimated) to occur at the standard meteorological height of 10 m (33 ft) in an unobstructed exposure (i.e., not blocked by buildings or trees).

Since the inauguration of the Automatic Surface Observation System (ASOS) the National Weather Service has adopted a two minute average standard for its sustained wind definition. This is because the ASOS stations average and report their wind data over a two minute period. There is no conversion factor to change a two minute average wind into a one minute average wind, and it is pointless to try to estimate the highest one minute wind over a two minute period, as they are essentially the same.

Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8185
Quoting Ossqss:


Let me ask it differently. Ground level wind is 100 mph and at 3000 ft it is at 160. Would the hurricane be a cat 2 or 5?


it would be a cat 2 cause they go by ground level
Member Since: August 12, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 2838
Quoting Ossqss:
Question, exactly what level do they measure the wind speed at?? 100 ft etc. Obviously, that has an impact of the reading.


Let me ask it differently. Ground level wind is 100 mph and at 3000 ft it is at 160. Would the hurricane be a cat 2 or 5?
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8185
Question, exactly what level do they measure the wind speed at?? 100 ft etc. Obviously, that has an impact of the reading.
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8185
Wind speed alone doesn’t predict hurricanes’ power


By AMY WOLD
Advocate staff writer
Published: Feb 28, 2009 - Page: 10A - UPDATED: 12:05 a.m. Link

LAFAYETTE — The potential damage and danger of a hurricane can’t be defined by a single number as is sometimes done with the Saffir-Simpson category scale, warns The Weather Channel’s tropical program manager Steve Lyons.

“Not all hurricanes of the same category are the same,” he said Friday during a U.S. Department of Commerce 2009 Gulf Coast Marine Conference in Lafayette.

The Saffir-Simpson scale for measuring hurricanes — by which a storm is labeled as Category 1-5 — only measures wind speed, he said. That can be very misleading to the public since wind speed is only one part of the equation when it comes to how destructive a hurricane can be, he said.

For example, Hurricane Charley was a Category 4 hurricane, but it only produced a 6- to 9-foot storm surge while Hurricane Katrina as a Category 3 produced more than 27 feet of storm surge in some locations, he said.

Storm surge — or the water pushed ahead of a tropical cyclone that can cause coastal flooding — can’t be directly tied to a Saffir-Simpson scale number, he said.
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Ossgss , lmao
Member Since: August 12, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 2838
Quoting P451:
LOL Accuweather stating on their site that it will be a major storm but they don't expect more than 6 inches for NYC. They say the storm is weakening and will continue to weaken as it heads up the coast.

Meanwhile the NWS is forecasting 10-16 inches for the same region. All models seem to agree for a major winter storm giving a very wide area of 12"+

...I think I'll believe the NWS and forecast models on this one over the two dweebs at IN"accu"weather.



I found the accuweather forcaster. Nice job.


Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8185
Gotta Run everyone have a good day....No fighting.... and have fun in the Snow you northern Birds...LOL!
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439
Here is the Forecast track of the LOW...a perfect TRUE NorEaster LOw. first one of the year.....Finally...LOL

Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439
Quoting P451:
LOL Accuweather stating on their site that it will be a major storm but they don't expect more than 6 inches for NYC. They say the storm is weakening and will continue to weaken as it heads up the coast.

Meanwhile the NWS is forecasting 10-16 inches for the same region. All models seem to agree for a major winter storm giving a very wide area of 12"

...I think I'll believe the NWS and forecast models on this one over the two dweebs at IN"accu"weather.



Oh you must mean inaccuweather
Member Since: August 12, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 2838
Morning,

Tampa nice job on the website!

Orca, N.W.FL does not have snow.
Repeat:
NWFL DOES NOT HAVE SNOW.

You can stop doing your little "happy dance".
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Quoting hahaguy:
From the looks of it the cold front is drying up. That's not good for us here in south florida cause we also need rain


We do need the rain badly and hopefully it will push those stikin pollen counts down to a reasonable level. The tree pollen has been killin me.
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8185
From the looks of it the cold front is drying up. That's not good for us here in south florida cause we also need rain
Member Since: August 12, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 2838
Really Nasty winds here in SWFL. Looks like we have two pre frontal squall lines. This is the first, second is on it's way. Sky looks really nasty..
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Knowing my luck however, for Florida in the summer it will be like this.
Bamako, MI (Airport)
Updated: 36 min 8 sec ago
Unknown
100 °F
N/A
Humidity: 9%
Dew Point: 30 °F
Wind: 10 mph from the East
Pressure: 29.83 in (Falling)
Visibility: 5.0 miles
Elevation: 1250 ft
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23564
Complete Blog Refresh
Mirror Site



Current Home weather station data.
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Quoting hahaguy:
Great site tampa


Thanks haha,
It took alot of work. But, there was times that last year WU went down and i could not log into my blog. I just decided i was not doing that again.
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439
Speaking of cold, check out how cold it is in Amundsen-Scott, Antarctica. Its -61F, with lows down into the -70 range, wind chill -100+
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23564



Has anyone heard from Melwerle???

Here...thanks for asking! Rough storms last night and we ended up wanting to throw the radio out on the porch...went off CONSTANTLY last evening. Still looking gloomy out but things have quieted down...
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Im just thankful February is over and this looks like Florida's last cool blast.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23564
Great site tampa
Member Since: August 12, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 2838
I have a new web site of my own now! Its a mirror of my WU blog. Both are current and i will update both the same time as i do updates. The other is also a blog. Here is both links if anyone would like to view.

http://tampaspinsweather.webs.com/index.htm Link

http://www.wunderground.com/blog/TampaSpin/show.html Link
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439
Happy March 1st snow storm......good morning everyone.
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439
surfmom:don't even think about going out,you'd probably get killed,Its REALLY churned up,its been a while since I've seen th GOM this angry!!!!
Member Since: October 5, 2007 Posts: 20 Comments: 4970
p451:thanks for the link
surfmom:,I love weather where ever I go(NYC is a great place to experence a snowstorm,as long as you don't have to drive!!)

Its mighty windy
here in srq,has to be gusting to 35mph..
Member Since: October 5, 2007 Posts: 20 Comments: 4970
I got a cm of snow yesterday and it's still going
Member Since: March 29, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2346
Gale warnings here on the NW Fl coastal waters. Windy all night long, and currently 39 degrees, but the wind chill makes it 30. March definitely "in like a lion".
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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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