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Winter mortality in a changing climate: will it go down?

Winter mortality in a changing climate: will it go down?

Winter mortality in a changing climate: will it go down?

Patrick Kinney (plk3@columbia.edu) et al,
Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health, New York, USA

It is well known that death rates in temperate regions of the northern hemisphere are higher in winter than during other parts of the year, and further, that extreme heat during summer can lead to spikes in mortality. Together, these seasonal phenomena result in a U shaped relationship between daily mortality and temperatures. The shape and position of the U varies by location, and especially by average temperatures, showing that cities adapt to their local climate. In cooler cities, the increase in deaths at low temperatures is relatively shallow, and the increase in deaths with high temperatures relatively steep. By contrast, in warmer cities, the cold function is relatively steep and the hot function relatively shallow. With continued global warming due to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions virtually certain over coming decades, it is important to consider how the health response might change. In particular, we consider the question of whether winter mortality might diminish as temperatures rise in the future. Answering this question will have very important implications for public health adaptation planning. Somewhat surprisingly, based on the available literature, we conclude that it is unlikely that winter mortality would substantially diminish as temperatures rise.

Winter, temperature, cold spell, mortality, climate change, projections