Researchers predict temperature-related deaths in Manhattan will rise

Every year, New Yorkers suffer through some sweltering summer days. Now researchers predict that climate change will increase the number of deaths related to temperature in Manhattan, mostly because of hotter weather in May and September.

The link between global warming and heat-related deaths isn’t new. But climate change also could reduce cold-related deaths, and the study authors wanted to find out whether the overall number of deaths would rise or fall. They focused on the New York City area, which heated up by 2 degrees Celsius over the last century.

The researchers ran 16 climate models under two emissions scenarios to predict the change in temperature-related deaths in Manhattan over the next several decades. In every case, the increase in heat-related deaths outweighed the decrease in cold-related deaths, they report in Nature Climate Change. For example, one simulation suggested that temperature-related deaths would increase by 15.5 percent from the 1980s to the 2080s.

The reality may turn out to be a bit more complicated. If the number of elderly people goes up, so will the death rate. At the same time, people might be better-protected from hot days if air-conditioning becomes more common or the city issues more extreme weather alerts. — Roberta Kwok | 20 May 2013

Source: Li, T., R.M. Horton, and P.L. Kinney. 2013. Projections of seasonal patterns in temperature-related deaths for Manhattan, New York. Nature Climate Change doi: 10.1038/nclimate1902.

Image © Joshua Haviv | Shutterstock.com

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