and public health can be found in the recent synthesis of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP, 2008a) and in other recent reports and syntheses (e.g., Confalonieri, 2007; Confalonieri et al., 2007). Additionally, this chapter identifies research needed to clarify exposure-response relationships, better quantify the impacts of climate change on human health, and identify efficient adaptation options.
Heat waves are the leading causes of weather-related morbidity and mortality in the United States (CDC, 2006; Changnon et al., 1996). Between 1979 and 1999, some 8,015 deaths in the United States were heat related, and 3,829 of these were linked to weather conditions (Donoghue et al., 2003). As with other extreme events, the risk of heat waves is not evenly distributed across the country; for example, populations in the Midwest are at increased risk for illness and death during heat waves (CCSP, 2008a; Jones et al., 1982; Palecki et al., 2001; Semenza et al., 1996). Heat stress and heat waves are significant factors for increased morbidity and mortality in other parts of the world as well. A typical U-shaped curve (Figure 11.2) illustrates temperatures beyond which human mortality rates are observed to rise, depending on latitude.