8A.4 Utilizing Partnerships Between State Departments of Health, Universities and the National Weather Service to Improve Public Preparation and Response to Extreme Heat

Wednesday, 25 January 2017: 2:15 PM
612 (Washington State Convention Center )
Neil A. Stuart, NOAA/NWS, Albany, NY; and S. G. Nayak and S. Lin

Handout (2.7 MB)

Extreme heat results in more annual fatalities than any other weather-related phenomena.  Recently, the Northeast Regional Heat Collaborative in New England and separate heat-related studies in New York have recommended adjustments to heat advisory apparent temperature thresholds. The Northeast Regional Heat Collaborative included National Weather Service offices in New England and New York, along with state public health agencies in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Rhode Island and Brown University.  The New York studies included National Weather Service offices in New York and Vermont, along with The New York State Department of Health and State University of New York at Albany School of Public Health.  These studies were conducted to evaluate whether apparent temperature thresholds for National Weather Service extreme heat advisories and warnings needed to be changed to better serve an increasing population with chronic health problems.  The current apparent temperature threshold for heat advisories across New York and New England is 38°C (100°F) but New York City has separate criteria of 2 consecutive days of 35°C (95°F). 

Temperature and heat index data was analyzed in linking hospital emergency admissions data to determine if extreme high apparent temperatures are associated with significant increases in hospital admissions.  Some health outcomes studied included cardiovascular, respiratory, kidney problems and birth defects.  Significant increases in cardiovascular disease and respiratory health admissions were observed in New York City when apparent temperatures increased above 31.7°C (89°F) and 35.6°C (96°F) respectively.  A study of congenital birth defects in New York State found that congenital cataracts increased significantly when heat waves lasted more than 3 days (Universal Apparent Temperature > 32°C (90°F)).  Multiple New York State studies also found that the minimum or night time temperature was the most sensitive indicator for impacts of extreme heat on health.  This supports the assertions that warmer nighttime temperatures contribute to health problems due to the inability to cool from daytime heat. 

One study in New England determined that a significant increase in emergency department visits due to all health issues occurred with an apparent temperature of 35°C (95°F).  Lag times during and after extreme events and increases in health issues will be discussed as well as distinguishing the importance of nighttime apparent temperatures versus daytime apparent temperatures and their effect on health issues and mortality.  Based on these studies, New York and New England are considering lowering the heat advisory threshold for all of New York and New England to the New York City criteria of 2 consecutive days of 35°C (95°F) beginning the summer of 2017.  Specific statistics for each type of health issue will be described as well as warning and safety information in development through collaboration between state and federal agencies and universities.

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