Evaluating Extreme Heat Event Definitions: Region-specific Investigation of Extreme Heat and Heat-related Mortality

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Tuesday, 4 February 2014: 11:30 AM
Room C213 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Ambarish Vaidyanathan, CDC, Chamblee, GA; and S. Kegler and S. Saha

Background Extreme heat events (EHEs) are defined as sustained periods of abnormally and uncomfortably hot, and often humid, weather. EHE health effects include heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat syncope, and heat stroke. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a total of 7,233 heat-related deaths were reported between 1999 and 2009. Several studies suggest that there is an added “heat wave” effect on mortality owing to sustained periods of extreme heat. Numerous EHE definitions are available from the public health and meteorology literature. A majority of studies apply a single EHE definition (based on one or more meteorological variables) to all climate regions, neglecting the potential influence of climate adaptation by resident populations. Studies that have extensively evaluated EHEs are limited to few geographic areas. Extending definitions from such studies to areas not previously studied may result in misidentification of EHEs. No national study conducted in the United States (U.S.) to date has accounted for daily heat-related mortality in defining EHEs. On the whole, there is lack of consensus in the environmental health literature on definitions and procedures to accurately identify periods of extreme heat associated with adverse health impacts. Methods and Objectives For this analysis, several EHE definitions that have been used in the literature will be evaluated. Station-based meteorology data from National Climatic Data Center for years 1999-2009 will be used and any county in the conterminous U.S. (lower 48 states) with an automated surface observing system unit will be included in this evaluation. For each heat event definition, a separate rate regression (RR) model will be estimated, keeping all daily-level meteorological variables the same across models. The results of the RR modeling process will be used to assess the consistency of the relation between EHEs identified using each candidate definition and the occurrence of heat-related deaths. Expected Results We hypothesize that people in different climatic regions have varying susceptibility to extreme heat, necessitating a region-specific investigation of extreme heat and associated heat-related mortality. Additionally, we anticipate that the most appropriate definition of EHEs may vary with climate region. Conclusions We expect that this analysis will provide insights into the spatial and temporal distribution of EHEs nationally, and will improve understanding of the regional variation in frequency, intensity and duration of heat episodes. The results may be useful in tailoring heat alerts in different locations to reduce the potential adverse health impacts from extreme heat.