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A biometeorology study of climate and heat-related morbidity in Phoenix from 2001 to 2006


Heat waves kill more people in the United States than hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and floods combined. Recently, international attention focused on the linkages and impacts of human health vulnerability to urban climate when Western Europe experienced over 30,000 excess deaths during the heat waves of the summer of 2003—surpassing the 1995 heat wave in Chicago, Illinois, that killed 739. While Europe dealt with heat waves, in the United States, Phoenix, Arizona, established a new all-time high minimum temperature for the region on July 15, 2003. The low temperature of 35.5°C (96°F) was recorded, breaking the previous all-time high minimum temperature record of 33.8°C (93°F). While an extensive literature on heat-related mortality exists, greater understanding of influences of heat-related morbidity is required due to climate change and rapid urbanization influences. We undertook an analysis of 6 years (2001–2006) of heat-related dispatches through the Phoenix Fire Department regional dispatch center to examine temporal, climatic and other non-spatial influences contributing to high-heat-related medical dispatch events. The findings identified that there were no significant variations in day-of-week dispatch events. The greatest incidence of heat-related medical dispatches occurred between the times of peak solar irradiance and maximum diurnal temperature, and during times of elevated human comfort indices (combined temperature and relative humidity).

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This work was supported by the National Center for Environmental Health at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Center of Excellence on SMART Innovations for Urban Climate and Energy at Arizona State University. This material was based in part on work supported by the National Science Foundation, while one of the authors (Patrick Phelan) was working at the Foundation. Any opinion, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation and the sponsoring agencies. We thank Nancy Sellover, Arizona State Climatologist and the Phoenix Fire Department for their technical assistance.

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Correspondence to Jay S. Golden.

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Golden, J.S., Hartz, D., Brazel, A. et al. A biometeorology study of climate and heat-related morbidity in Phoenix from 2001 to 2006. Int J Biometeorol 52, 471–480 (2008).

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  • Health vulnerability
  • Heat Waves
  • Urban Climate
  • Morbidity
  • Emergency medical dispatch