Letter | Published:

Projections of seasonal patterns in temperature- related deaths for Manhattan, New York

Nature Climate Change volume 3, pages 717721 (2013) | Download Citation


Global average temperatures have been rising for the past half-century, and the warming trend has accelerated in recent decades1. Further warming is expected over the next few decades, with significant regional variations. These warming trends will probably result in more frequent, intense and persistent periods of hot temperatures in summer, and generally higher temperatures in winter. Daily death counts in cities increase markedly when temperatures reach levels that are very high relative to what is normal in a given location2,3,4. Relatively cold temperatures also seem to carry risk2,4. Rising temperatures may result in more heat-related mortality but may also reduce cold-related mortality, and the net impact on annual mortality remains uncertain. Here we use 16 downscaled global climate models and two emissions scenarios to estimate present and future seasonal patterns in temperature-related mortality in Manhattan, New York. All 32 projections yielded warm-season increases and cold-season decreases in temperature-related mortality, with positive net annual temperature-related deaths in all cases. Monthly analyses showed that the largest percentage increases may occur in May and September. These results suggest that, over a range of models and scenarios of future greenhouse gas emissions, increases in heat-related mortality could outweigh reductions in cold-related mortality, with shifting seasonal patterns.

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T.L. was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Project Number: 21277135, 40905069; 41110104015). R.M.H. and P.K. were supported by grant #NA10OAR4310212 from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. P.K. was also supported by grant #P30 ES09089 from the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. D. Bader assisted with technical aspects of the downscaling.

Author information


  1. Institute for Environmental Health and Related Product Safety, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Beijing 100050, China

    • Tiantian Li
  2. Center for Climate Systems Research, Columbia University, New York 10025, USA

    • Radley M. Horton
  3. Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York 10032, USA

    • Patrick L. Kinney


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T.L. and P.K. contributed to the research design, data analysis and paper writing; R.M.H. designed and led the temperature downscaling work.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Patrick L. Kinney.

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