Avoided Heat-Related Mortality through Climate Adaptation Strategies in Three US Cities

Heat-related mortality in US cities is expected to more than double by the mid-to-late 21st century.  Rising heat exposure in cities is projected to result from: 1) climate forcings from changing global atmospheric composition; and 2) local land surface characteristics responsible for the urban heat island effect.  The extent to which heat management strategies designed to lessen the urban heat island effect could offset future heat-related mortality remains unexplored in the literature.  Using coupled global and regional climate models with a human health effects model, we estimate changes in the number of heat-related deaths in 2050 resulting from modifications to vegetative cover and surface albedo across three climatically and demographically diverse US metropolitan areas: Atlanta, Georgia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Phoenix, Arizona.  Employing separate health impact functions for average warm season and heat wave conditions in 2050, we find combinations of vegetation and albedo enhancement to offset projected increases in heat-related mortality by 40 to 99% across the three metropolitan regions.  These results demonstrate the potential for extensive land surface changes in cities to provide adaptive benefits to urban populations at risk for rising heat exposure with climate change.

Suggested citation or credit:

Stone B Jr, Vargo J, Liu P, Habeeb D, DeLucia A, et al. (2014) Avoided Heat-Related Mortality through Climate Adaptation Strategies in Three US Cities. PLoS ONE 9(6): e100852. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0100852

Additional credits:

Jason Vargo, Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, United States of America
Peng Liu, School of City and Regional Planning, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America
Dana Habeeb, School of City and Regional Planning, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America
Anthony DeLucia, Quillen College of Medicine, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tennessee, United States of America
Marcus Trail, School of City and Regional Planning, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America
Yongtao Hu, School of City and Regional Planning, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America
Armistead Russell, School of City and Regional Planning, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America

Source: PLOS One

Publication Date: June 2014

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