By John Parnell
The number of heat related deaths in New York will increase by 20% by the 2020s and as much as 90% by the 2080s, according to a new study.
They also found the majority of deaths would not occur during the high summer according to the researchers. They found the majority falling in May and September.
The researchers combined a number of data sets, including the temperature records from Central Park to model the effect of climate shifts in Manhattan alone, the most densely populated county in the US.
The team from Columbia University’s Earth Institute and the Mailman School of Public Health predict that milder winters will lower the death toll from the cold, but extreme temperatures as a whole will still claim 33% more lives.
“This serves as a reminder that heat events are one of the greatest hazards faced by urban populations around the globe,” said co-author Radley Horton, a climate scientist at the Earth Institute’s Center for Climate Systems Research.
The study, published in Nature Climate Change, is more detailed than previous estimates of climate change health impacts. It covers all four seasons and works through several scenarios for a relatively small area.
“I think this points to the need for cities to look for ways to make themselves and their people more resilient to heat,” said Patrick Kinney, an environmental scientist at the Mailman School and Earth Institute.
370 people died from heat related problems in the 1980s but the new model’s worst case scenario for 2080, assuming a population of 1.6 million is more than 1000.
A heatwave in Europe in 2003 claimed 70,000 lives with many people unsure how to respond to the high temperatures and many homes without air conditioning.