Manhattan Heat-Related Deaths Expected To Increase
May 20, 2013

Heat-Related Deaths In Manhattan Expected To Increase Significantly

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Increasing temperatures could cause heat-related deaths in Manhattan to increase by one-fifth by the end of the decade, and nearly double before the end of the century, according to new research published in this week´s edition of the journal Nature Climate Change.

In the study, scientists from the Columbia University's Earth Institute and the Mailman School of Public Health report that deaths related to global warming could increase by 20 percent by the 2020s, and in some worst-case scenarios could jump up to 90 percent before the year 2090. While warmer winter climates might offset some of those fatalities, the annual net number of temperature-related deaths could rise by one-third, they explained.

While studies involving other cities have projected similar negative health effects as a result of increasing temperatures, the researchers claim that theirs is one of the most comprehensive completed to date. Unlike many others, they said, it takes data from all four seasons and combines them, while also applying multiple different scenarios to a single local area — the most densely populated county in the US.

In a statement, co-author Radley Horton, a climate scientist at the Earth Institute's Center for Climate Systems Research, said that their findings should serve “as a reminder that heat events are one of the greatest hazards faced by urban populations around the globe.” To emphasize his point, he said that individuals should look at the 2010 heat wave that killed a reported 55,000 people in Russia, as well as a 2003 heat wave which resulted in approximately 70,000 fatalities in central and western Europe.

According to the researchers, daily records from Central Park in Manhattan show that average monthly temperatures have already increased by 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit from 1901 to 2000. That is “substantially” higher than US and worldwide trends, Horton´s team said, and over the past three years they have experienced temperatures of at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Last year was reportedly the hottest in Manhattan history, and while forecasts vary, most climate models predict increases of 3.3 to 4.2 degrees Fahrenheit by the middle of the century.

“To make mortality estimates, the researchers took temperature projections from 16 global climate models, downscaled these to Manhattan, and put them against two different backdrops: one assuming rapid global population growth and few efforts to limit emissions; the other, assuming slower growth, and technological changes that would decrease emissions by 2040,” the university explained. “As a baseline for estimating temperature-related deaths, they used the 1980s, when an estimated 370 Manhattanites died from overheating, and 340 died from cold.”

“No matter what scenario they used, the projections suggested increased mortality,” they added. “In the 2020s for instance, numbers produced from the various scenarios worked out to a mean increase of about 20 percent in deaths due to heat, set against a mean decrease of about 12 percent in deaths due to cold. The net result: a 5 or 6 percent increase in overall temperature-related deaths. Due mainly to uncertainties in future greenhouse emissions, projections for the 2050s and 2080s diverge more — but in all scenarios mortality would rise steeply.”