Analog European Heat Waves for U.S. Cities to Analyze Impact on Heat-Related Mortality

During the summer of 2003, western Europe was affected by an excessive heat event (EHE) of historic proportions. For most of that summer, temperatures were well above average across a broad region extending from the British Isles to the Iberian Peninsula and eastward to Germany and Italy, but the most extreme conditions centered in France. In Paris, France, maximum temperatures equaled or exceeded 38°C (100°F) for 6 days, and the heat broke long-standing maximum and minimum temperature records

Even though an analysis of the European EHE of 2003 indicates that its duration and magnitude is beyond anything that has occurred in either the United States or Europe over the last 150 yr, there is still a well-documented pattern of increased mortality in U.S. cities as a result of EHEs (e.g., St. Louis, Missouri, 1966, 1980; New York, New York, 1975, 1984; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1991, 1993; Chicago, Illinois, 1995). The toll of the European EHE raises the question of what the health impacts of a similar EHE would be in the United States.

The goal of this paper is to develop meteorological analogs of the Paris EHE for five major U.S. cities: Detroit; New York; Philadelphia; St. Louis; and Washington, D.C. This work also estimates mortality for these U.S. cities for a scenario in which an EHE of the magnitude of the 2003 European event occurs in each city. Since this unprecedented heat event is not a model but an actual event, we were able to use a plausible analog to assess the risk of increasing heat on these cities instead of an analog that is dependent on general circulation (GCM) modeling or the development of arbitrary scenarios.

Additional credits:

Scott Greene (University of Oklahoma)

David Mills

Alan Perrin (U.S. EPA)

Jason Samenow (U.S. EPA)

Jean-Claude Cohen (Meteo-France)

Source: American Meteorological Society

Publication Date: January 2008

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