The role of climate change in extreme weather events presented in interactive map


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A screenshot of Carbon Brief’s new interactive map. Extreme weather events attributable to human-induced climate change are in orange, those that are not are in blue. (Carbon Brief)
Jenna Ladd | July 14, 2017

The body of scientific research examining the extent to which extreme weather can be attributed to human-induced climate change is growing. Carbon Brief, a climate journalism site out of the United Kingdom, recently created an interactive map that color-codes these studies, making it easy to discern which events were caused by climate change and which were not.

Carbon Brief mapped a total of 144 extreme weather events worldwide that have been included in “extreme event attribution” studies.  The investigators determined that 63 percent of all extreme weather events studied thus far “were made more likely or more severe” by human-induced climate change. Extreme heat waves account for almost half of those events that can be attributed to human-induced global warming.

Roz Pidcock is one of the map’s creators. She said, “The temptation is to look at the result of one study and think that is the definitive last word, but in reality, the evidence needs to be considered in its entirety to make sense of how climate change is influencing extreme weather.”

In 14 percent of the studies, scientists determined that humans had no discernible impact on the likelihood or severity of the weather event. For five percent of the weather events studied, climate change made the event less likely or less intense. The vast majority of these occurrences included cold, snow and ice events.

Perhaps the most striking finding included in the report is the overwhelming effect climate change has on the intensity and severity of heat waves. The investigators looked at 48 heat wave attribution studies and determined that 85 percent of those events were made more severe or more likely thanks to global warming.

The authors write, “One study suggests that the Korean heatwave in the summer of 2013 had become 10 times more likely due to climate change, for example. Only one study on extreme heat didn’t find a role for climate change – an analysis of the Russian heatwave in 2010.”

Fewer than ten extreme weather attribution studies have been published so far in 2017. Carbon Brief plans to continue adding updating its map and providing analysis for new studies as they are published in peer-reviewed articles.

Top doctors say climate change harms human health


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The Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health details how climate change will affect human health in specific regions of the U.S. (Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health)
Jenna Ladd | March 16, 2017

The Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health released a report on Wednesday explaining the ways in which climate change harms the physical and mental health of people in the U.S.

The report, titled “Medical Alert! Climate Change is Impacting our Health” was written by medical doctors, including allergists, pediatricians, infectious-disease doctors, OB/GYNs and gerontologists from eleven health organizations.

Very few Americans, less than 32 percent, can name a specific way in which climate change harms human health. “Doctors in every part of our country see that climate change is making Americans sicker,” said Dr. Mona Sarfaty, the director of the new consortium.

The authors broke down the specific health effects of climate change in each region of the U.S. The doctors explain that three by-products of climate change will directly impact human health: air pollution, extreme heat and extreme weather events. Increased temperatures associated with climate change intensify smog, wildfires and pollen production, leading to poor air quality, the report said. “Poor air quality increases asthma and allergy attacks, and can lead to other illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths,” the authors wrote.

Rising global temperatures cause more frequent, longer, and more extreme heat waves in many parts of the U.S. Excessive heat leads to heat-related illness, exacerbates some medical conditions, and can cause death due to heat-stroke and dehydration. The report read, “Anyone can be harmed by extreme heat, but some people face greater risk. For example, outdoor workers, student athletes, city dwellers, and people who lack air conditioning (or who lose it during an extended power outage) face greater risk because they are more exposed to extreme heat.”

The physicians pointed out that extreme weather events are also taking a toll on their patients. The increased frequency and severity of major storms, floods, and droughts can cause injury, displacement and death, the report read. These events often prevent residents from receiving proper medical care due to blocked roads, destroyed bridges and the like. Gastrointestinal illness and disease often follow the power outages associated with extreme weather events as well, according to the doctors.

Beyond these direct impacts, climate change also speeds up the spread of infectious diseases and has an insidious impact on humans’ mental health. With temperatures rising around the world, infectious disease vectors like ticks, mosquitoes and fleas can now survive in regions that were previously too cold for them. For example, “Ticks that carry Lyme disease have become more numerous in many areas and have expanded their range northward and westward,” the report said.

U.S. residents that have experienced increasingly common extreme weather events like foods, major storms, and droughts are likely to suffer mental health consequences including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety. Anyone could experience these effects, but women, pregnant women, the elderly, children, and those with a preexisting mental health condition are most at risk.

The report concluded with a call to government leaders, asking them to address climate change in the name of human health. It read, “Doctors agree with climate scientists: the sooner we take action, the more harm we can prevent, and the more we can protect the health of all Americans.”

Study predicts more days of extreme heat in the future


Los Angeles' infamous smog is just one example of climate change's effects on public health. (Flickr)
Los Angeles’ infamous smog is just one example of climate change’s effects on public health. (Flickr)
Nick Fetty | September 26, 2014

A University of Wisconsin study has found that the number of extremely hot days in midwestern and eastern U.S. cities is expected to triple by mid-century.

The study – which was published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association – predicts Milwaukee and New York City will see three times their current average of days that reach 90 degrees of higher by 2050. It also examined the ripple effects that hotter days and the resulting increase of storms would cause on public health. These effects include increased risk for waterborne and other infectious diseases as well as health risks associated with greater air pollution and a more carbon-intensive diet.

To combat these adverse effects on public health, the study suggests a number of measures including: reducing fossil fuel consumption, designing sustainable cities, and eating less meat. The study drew on experts from the studies of public health, air quality, and climate science.

The study cited the 1995 Chicago heat wave which led to more than 700 deaths. Since 1982, extreme heat in Wisconsin has killed more people than all other natural disaster combined. Extreme heat throughout the country has also killed thousands of cattle and other livestock in recent years. Statistics about heat-related fatalities in Iowa were unavailable, however by 2100 Des Moines is estimated to have 85 days with temperatures of 90 degrees or higher and 30 days of 100 degrees or higher.

High temperatures hurt medications


Photo by RambergMediaImages, Flickr.

This summer’s high temperatures have had far-reaching affects – including weakening some medications.

Medications such as nitroglycerin and insulin lose their effectiveness when exposed to temperatures above room temperature. This won’t cause them to become dangerous, but it will make them less potent.

Additionally, some medications can make it more difficult for patients to handle the heat. Some antihistamines lower people’s ability to sweat, and some diuretics cause an increase in urination. Both of these side effects can lead to dehydration when coupled with high temperatures.

Read more from the Tucson Citizen here.

Des Moines River fish kill attributed to high temperatures


Photo by eutrophication&hypoxia, Flickr.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources says high water temperature is to blame for a recent fish kill in southeast Iowa.

Nearly 58,000 dead fish were counted in a 42-mile section of the Des Moines River, with an estimated value of more than $10.1 million.

Mark Flammang, a DNR fisheries biologist that investigated the kill, attributed the event to water temperature.

“You just don’t see rivers at 97 degrees, and it was 97 degrees at every site that we sampled,” Flammang said. “I’ve never seen water at that temperature in Iowa.”

For more information, read the full article at The Gazette.

Drought conditions continue to spread across Iowa


Graphic courtesy of the National Drought Mitigation Center.

An updated map by the U.S. drought monitor shows a significant expansion of drought conditions through eastern and northwest Iowa.

Rainfall totals in Iowa for the months of May and June were less than half of normal, and what little precipitation the state received has been baked from the soil by a heatwave generating temperatures of 100 degrees or more across the state.

Bryce Knorr of Farm Futures Magazine said this morning “triple digit heat will cover much of the heart of the Corn Belt again today, with only partial relief in sight. While temperatures will slowly cool from the northwest, only limited chances for rain are in sign for key states over the next week.”

For more information, read the full article at the Des Moines Register.

Cattle owners must help their animals fight the heat


Photo by NDSU Ag Comm, Flickr.

Iowa is in the midst of a hot spell. This is particularly challenging weather for cattle and their owners.

In order to keep cattle safe, their owners should make sure there’s clean water and shade available. Additionally, it’s recommended to feed the cattle more than usual during the hot afternoons.

Finally, if the cattle are really struggling, their owners should sprinkle the animals with water.

Read more from the Des Moines Register here.