Temperature extremes and health: impacts of climate variability and change in the United States

J Occup Environ Med. 2009 Jan;51(1):13-25. doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e318173e122.


Objective: We evaluated temperature-related morbidity and mortality for the 2007 U.S. national assessment on impacts of climate change and variability on human health.

Methods: We assessed literature published since the 2000 national assessment, evaluating epidemiologic studies, surveys, and studies projecting future impacts.

Results: Under current climate change projections, heat waves and hot weather are likely to increase in frequency, with the overall temperature distribution shifting away from the colder extremes. Vulnerable subgroups include communities in the northeastern and Midwestern U.S.; urban populations, the poor, the elderly, children, and those with impaired health or limited mobility.

Conclusions: Temperature extremes and variability will remain important determinants of health in the United States under climate change. Research needs include estimating exposure to temperature extremes; studying nonfatal temperature-related illness; uniform criteria for reporting heat-related health outcomes; and improving effectiveness of urban heat island reduction and extreme weather response plans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollution / analysis
  • Climate
  • Cold Temperature / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure / prevention & control
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Greenhouse Effect
  • Health Status*
  • Hot Temperature / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Mortality
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • United States / epidemiology