If you thought this summer's heat couldn't possibly get any worse, you ain't seen nothing yet: according to a new study by Laurence S. Kalkstein, a climatologist at the University of Miami, global warming could cause the number of heat-related deaths in Baltimore and 20 other U.S. cities to more than double within the next 50 years.
In Baltimore alone, the number of days with temperatures above 101°F is estimated to rise from 6 a year to more than 16 by mid-century. This, in turn, will lead to more people dying from the additional heat -- from the 48 a year in the Baltimore area currently to approximately 141 a year (or 2,232 more deaths by 2050). Using the same metrics, global warming could cause as many as 3,888 additional deaths in New York City, 3,528 in Philadelphia and 3,192 in Chicago.The figures reached by Kalkstein are much higher than similar ones recorded by Maryland's state medical examiner's office. He explained that his estimates weren't meant to be "precise" since he was basing the current number on a 30-year-average and employing a broader definition of heat-related fatalities -- they could result from any cause (even heart attacks and strokes).
Joshua M. Sharfstein, Baltimore's health commissioner, remarked that: "Rising temperatures don't necessarily mean rising deaths. But it means that the city will have to work harder to prevent deaths." While there is certainly room for debate on the methods Kalkstein used to estimate the number of deaths (some do seem a bit high), few would contest the notion that rising temperatures and future heat waves will likely cause more deaths, particularly among older citizens -- as was seen in France's blistering 2003 heat wave.
Via ::Baltimore Sun: Heat deaths will rise, study says (newspaper)
See also: ::Feeling the Heat: CBC Radio on Global Warming, ::Floods, Monsoons, Heat Waves, Drought: Climate Change In Asia Now
Image courtesy of Capitan Giona via flickr