WORDS ON WEATHER & CLIMATE — December 23, 2010

Cold More Deadly 


Many people who have looked at the global warming issue, myself included, believe we have much more to fear from a cooling world than a warming one. Data from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics for 2001-2007 shows that 800 more people die every day in the United States in December, January and February than occur on an average day during the rest of the year. The winter months kill 72,000 more U.S. citizens than the spring-summer-autumn average.

Meteorologist Craig James, new Squire columnist

The data shows that heart attacks and strokes are the major culprits of cold weather deaths. It states, “As temperatures cool, blood vessels contract to preserve heat and blood composition changes. Cold weather makes the human respiratory system more susceptible to viruses. Compounding matters, influenza becomes more resistant to the human immune system when temperatures fall.”

            Another recently published article in the Southern Medical Journal also concluded, “Cold-related deaths are far more numerous than heat-related deaths in the United States, Europe, and almost all countries outside the tropics, and almost all of them are due to common illnesses that are increased by cold.” In addition, “Even in climates as warm as southern Europe or North Carolina, cold weather causes more deaths than hot weather.” The Journal also notes that “rising temperatures could reduce overall mortality rates.”

            Here’s more evidence that warm is better. Two health agencies in the U.K. recently released a report stating, “Mean annual heat-related mortality did not rise as summers warmed from 1971 to 2003.”

            Indeed, the authors note: “Heat-related mortalities are substantial throughout Europe, but the hot summers in southern Europe cause little more mortality than the milder summers of more northerly regions.”

            In October 2009, the Canadian Medical Association Journal reported, “We found that the lowest monthly mortality rates in selected European Mediterranean countries over the last few decades occurred in September. In Sweden and North American countries, the lowest mortality occurred in August, while it occurred in July in Japan. In Australia and New Zealand, the lowest monthly mortality was in March and February, respectively, which correspond to September and August, respectively, in the northern hemisphere.”

            The authors speculate that temperature plays a major role when it comes to excess mortality and, more specifically, cold weather is associated with a higher risk of death.

            An October 2007 article by S. Fred Singer and Dennis T. Avery, “Health Fears About Global Warming Are Unfounded,” assembles an impressive array of research confirming the “cold is more deadly” thesis. Dr. Singer, atmospheric physicist, professor of environmental sciences and founder and former director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service Center, and Avery, an agricultural economist and environmental researcher, contend that “the Earth’s moderate warming is not anthropogenic [man-made] and has been and will continue to be a net benefit to human health.”

            Singer and Avery write: “There are certainly deaths and illnesses due to heat waves. These typically include heat stroke, heart attacks, and asthma attacks. Deaths and hospitalizations from heat waves make headlines whenever the temperature hits very high levels. Yet we see the same sort of headlines during cold waves.”

            They go on to state, “Global-warming alarmists present the fairly simplistic theory that higher temperatures will drive more extreme weather events, and these events will raise human death rates, but overall, cold weather is more effective at killing people than heat waves.”

            Global warming, they point out, would raise maximum summer temperatures modestly while it would raise winter minimum temperatures significantly. Both factors should help reduce human death rates.

            Why are we always told that a warming world is a bad thing? It is well known that the greatest amount of biodiversity occurs in a warmer world and there is now a wealth of evidence related to human deaths to support the fact that warmer is better, cold is deadlier.

Craig James has been retired since July 1, 2008, after 40 years of broadcasting television weather. He was chief meteorologist at WZZM-TV for 12 years and chief meteorologist at WOOD-TV for 24 years. He is a graduate of Penn State University, where he received a Centennial Fellowship Award. He was also honored as a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society.

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