[Image credit: pixabay.com via NOAA]
Climate extremes, intense weather events and other acts of nature have a significant affect on our lives. With each occurrence, the risks of exposure to a range of human health and socioeconomic impacts are constantly changing.
A new paper in the Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association(link is external) (JA&WMA) by researchers from NCEI, the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites–North Carolina(link is external)(CICS-NC), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Florida State University explores the complex interconnections between extreme events and human health and highlights ways that research into these connections can help build resilience.
The publication of the paper, “Changes in extreme events and the potential impacts on human health,” brings the work of researchers studying weather and climate impacts on human health to a wider audience. JA&WMA is one of the oldest and continuously published technical environmental journals worldwide. Its primary audience is professionals in technical and engineering fields who work in air pollution control and waste management. Emphasizing climate research within their lexicon of knowledge could help lessen impacts of major events, according to the authors.
“Engineers and others in the environmental technology community can help design equipment and structures that can save lives and reduce the impacts that will occur with changes in the intensity and frequency of extreme events,” says Jesse Bell of CICS-NC, lead author. “The applications are potentially endless, including better-designed waste management facilities, improved air quality monitoring, and optimization of water treatment facilities.”
Health Impacts: Immediate and Long-Term
The paper focuses on several types of extreme events: heat waves, droughts, wildfires, dust storms, flooding rains, hurricanes, coastal flooding, and storm surge. Many of these events have obvious, immediate health impacts, but many other repercussions are less obvious or occur over longer periods.
“Understanding the observed changes to date and expectations of future extreme event risk are critical in developing public health systems resilient to extremes,” the authors write.
For example, increases in the frequency or severity of heat waves pose a clear threat to health, but warmer temperatures can also lead to more ground-level ozone pollution and increases in airborne allergens.
Extreme events can also result in cascading impacts, with significant effects on human health. For example, in 2003 a heat-related electricity blackout in the northeastern United States led to failures of emergency generators in hospitals, untreated sewage, and food contamination from losses of refrigeration, resulting in additional deaths and illnesses in New York City.
Climate and Health Knowledge Gaps
The paper also explores the ways that scientists are using techniques from disease epidemiology to identify how climate change is altering the likelihood and severity of various types of extreme events. The authors also identify important gaps in knowledge about the health impacts of extreme events and how those health impacts may change in the future.
The authors conclude that “some of the associations between extreme events and health are already understood and the linkages are established. However, many opportunities exist for exploring additional linkages and pathways because of the variety of ways that these events can affect human health outcomes.” They also note that incorporating this information into planning efforts can help improve preparedness and reduce impacts.
More information on the health impacts of climate change is outlined in the 2016 U.S. Global Change Research Program report, The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment.”
Edited for WeatherNation by Meteorologist Mace Michaels
UNDER WATER - Check out this area almost unrecognizable at Lake Travis in Texas from all the heavy rain on Thursday… https://t.co/y7t25i1mLu1 hour ago by WeatherNation
FLOODING from heavy rain continues to impact the Lone Star State. If you think it's been a wet few months, you're r… https://t.co/K3iw8vx9zJ3 hours ago by WeatherNation
Good morning sunshine... I mean snow... ❄️I mean... what day is it? People in New Hampshire had a nice, little dus… https://t.co/VhjONOUShg9 hours ago by WeatherNation
RT @WeatherNation: A look at the forecast in Houston for game 5 of the American League Championship Series tonight, along with game 6 in Mi…10 hours ago by WeatherNation
A look at the forecast in Houston for game 5 of the American League Championship Series tonight, along with game 6… https://t.co/mSHNV9bAE810 hours ago by WeatherNation
More rain is on the way for Texas. This time, it's heading to the gulf coast. But how much? https://t.co/KLq9rZSKCe11 hours ago by WeatherNation
Rain, Rain, Go Away. Texas continues to add impressive rain totals to their compartment as a soggy stretch of weath… https://t.co/lFZDv49vHb13 hours ago by WeatherNation
NEW VIDEO - More drone footage captures what will undoubtedly take years to recover from in Mexico Beach, Florida..… https://t.co/amOQLuwQuJ15 hours ago by WeatherNation
It's a crisp start to the morning in Boston where wind advisories are waking up residents in the area. Still a pret… https://t.co/9nfjPZtiaL17 hours ago by WeatherNation
NEW THIS MORNING - Upstate New York is waking up to a few snowflakes on the ground, their first official snowfall o… https://t.co/0FuBamF0jV17 hours ago by WeatherNation