The effects of changing weather on public health

Annu Rev Public Health. 2000;21:271-307. doi: 10.1146/annurev.publhealth.21.1.271.


Many diseases are influenced by weather conditions or display strong seasonality, suggestive of a possible climatic contribution. Projections of future climate change have, therefore, compelled health scientists to re-examine weather/disease relationships. There are three projected physical consequences of climate change: temperature rise, sea level rise, and extremes in the hydrologic cycle. This century, the Earth has warmed by about 0.5 degrees centigrade, and the mid-range estimates of future temperature change and sea level rise are 2.0 degrees centigrade and 49 centimeters, respectively, by the year 2100. Extreme weather variability associated with climate change may especially add an important new stress to developing nations that are already vulnerable as a result of environmental degradation, resource depletion, overpopulation, or location (e.g. low-lying coastal deltas). The regional impacts of climate change will vary widely depending on existing population vulnerability. Health outcomes of climate change can be grouped into those of: (a) direct physical consequences, e.g. heat mortality or drowning; (b) physical/chemical sequelae, e.g. atmospheric transport and formation of air pollutants; (c) physical/biological consequences, e.g. response of vector- and waterborne diseases, and food production; and (d) sociodemographic impacts, e.g. climate or environmentally induced migration or population dislocation. Better understanding of the linkages between climate variability as a determinant of disease will be important, among other key factors, in constructing predictive models to guide public health prevention.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Communicable Diseases / epidemiology
  • Communicable Diseases / etiology
  • Forecasting
  • Global Health*
  • Greenhouse Effect*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Models, Statistical
  • Morbidity
  • Mortality
  • Population Surveillance
  • Primary Prevention / methods
  • Public Health Practice
  • Public Health*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Weather*