Projected Changes in Temperature-related Morbidity and Mortality in Southern New England

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Abstract

Background:

Climate change is expected to result in more heat-related, but potentially fewer cold-related, emergency department visits and deaths. The net effect of projected changes in temperature on morbidity and mortality remains incompletely understood. We estimated the change in temperature-related morbidity and mortality at two sites in southern New England, United States, through the end of the 21st century.

Methods:

We used distributed lag Poisson regression models to estimate the present-day associations between daily mean temperature and all-cause emergency department visits and deaths in Rhode Island and in Boston, Massachusetts. We estimated the change in temperature-related visits and deaths in 2045–2054 and 2085–2094 (relative to 2001–2010) under two greenhouse gas emissions scenarios (RCP4.5 and RCP8.5) using downscaled projections from an ensemble of over 40 climate models, assuming all other factors remain constant.

Results:

We observed U-shaped relationships between temperature and morbidity and mortality in Rhode Island, with minima at 10.9°C and 22.5°C, respectively. We estimated that, if this population were exposed to the future temperatures projected under RCP8.5 for 2085–2094, there would be 5,976 (95% eCI = 1,630, 11,379) more emergency department visits but 218 (95% eCI = −551, 43) fewer deaths annually. Results were similar in Boston and similar but less pronounced in the 2050s and under RCP4.5.

Conclusions:

We estimated that in the absence of further adaptation, if the current southern New England population were exposed to the higher temperatures projected for future decades, temperature-related emergency department visits would increase but temperature-related deaths would not.

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