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


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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Figure 1: Exposure–response curve for temperature-related mortality.
Figure 2: Distribution of heat-related, cold-related and net annual temperature-related deaths in the 1980s, 2020s, 2050s and 2080s for 16 climate models and the A2 and B1 greenhouse gas scenarios.
Figure 3: Percentage change (average over 16 models) in monthly temperature-related deaths in the 2080s versus the 1980s for the A2 scenario.

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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.

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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.

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Correspondence to Patrick L. Kinney.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Li, T., Horton, R. & Kinney, P. Projections of seasonal patterns in temperature- related deaths for Manhattan, New York. Nature Clim Change 3, 717–721 (2013).

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