13th Conference on Applied Climatology and the 10th Conference on Aviation, Range, and Aerospace Meteorology

Thursday, 16 May 2002: 9:15 AM
Using a synoptic classification scheme to assess rural-urban differences in heat vulnerability
Scott C. Sheridan, Kent State University, Kent, OH
Poster PDF (599.5 kB)
This study examines the variability in summertime mortality rates with weather conditions across all of Ohio’s counties and counties in adjacent metropolitan areas. Mortality rates are analyzed across different weather types as well as apparent temperatures for the summers of 1975-1998. Data are standardized to account for demographic changes, and are examined by race, sex, and age individually as well as aggregated.

In terms of absolute numbers of deaths, the largest numbers are found, as expected, in the older urban centers. Oppressive weather types are associated with upwards of four additional deaths in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) and three additional deaths in Hamilton County (Cincinnati). Most large urban counties in Ohio show some statistically significant relationship.

When the data are analyzed in terms of percentage above normal levels, many rural counties also show statistically significant increases in mortality, despite their smaller absolute numbers. When all rural counties in Ohio are aggregated (2.5 million people), a total of approximately three additional deaths per day are noted in oppressive conditions. This represents nearly a five percent increase in mortality over normal levels, comparable to the aggregate of suburban counties (five percent) and urban counties (four percent). Thus it appears that recent efforts by the National Weather Service to target urban areas for heat-related health problems may be missing similarly vulnerable people in rural areas.

In a breakdown of mortality across race and sex, no appreciable differences are noted. In most locations, the weather-mortality relationship is much stronger with those above 65 than those below 65.

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