Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Hot and cold, life and death

Biggest weather killer? Hurricanes, tornadoes and winter storms way down on the list.

Hot and cold, life and death

We have seen various analyses of weather-related deaths, and the one published this week by the Centers for Disease Control surprised us.

Far and away, the No. 1 killer is extreme cold, according to the National Health Statistics Reports study, out-ranking heat by about a 2-to-1 ratio.

The five-year study, encompassing the 2006-10 period, took a somewhat different approach from other analyses we’ve seen.

It didn’t limit the definition to direct causation, or used a simple “excess mortality” system – comparing deaths on particularly hot or cold days with average daily mortality.

Instead, the CDC counted cases in which weather was a direct cause, and included cases in which the death certificates suggested that weather was a contributing factor.

The result was an average of just over 2,000 deaths annually. Of those, cold was a factor in 63 percent, and heat, 31 percent. We would have guessed a reverse ratio.

 Despite the sound and fury, storms and assorted mayhem accounted for just 6 percent of all deaths.

One other note of significance: The death rates for heat and cold were significantly higher among African-Americans, according to the study.

Tony Wood Inquirer Weather Columnist
About this blog

Everyone talks about the weather, and here we write about it.

When we’re around and conditions warrant, we’ll keep you updated about what’s coming, but we will do our best always to discuss weather and climate developments in context and remind you that nothing in the atmosphere happens in a vacuum.

Tony Wood has been writing about the atmosphere for The Inquirer for 26 years.

Reach Tony at twood@phillynews.com.

Tony Wood Inquirer Weather Columnist
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