There’s a new essay from Indur Goklany in response to a recent Reuters news article.
Yesterday Reuters reported on a study which claimed that heat is the deadliest form of natural hazard for the United States. However, this result is based on questionable data. The study used results for mortality from extreme heat and cold that can be traced to the National Climatic Data Center. But these data are substantially different from mortality data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) based on the Compressed Mortality File for the United States. The latter uses death certificate records, which provide the cause of each recorded death (based on medical opinion). It is reasonable to believe that regarding the cause of death, particularly for extreme cold and heat, medical opinion as captured in death certificate records is more reliable than determinations made by the meteorologists in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s NCDC (even if they have Ph.Ds.).
The essay draws on data from the CDC database of mortality in the USA. See this table:
Combining data from the CDC database for extreme cold and extreme heat, and various arms of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for floods, lightning, hurricanes, and tornadoes, Goklany has shown that extreme cold, rather than heat, is the deadliest form of extreme weather event. In fact, from 1979-2002, extreme cold was responsible for 53 percent of deaths due to all these categories of extreme weather, while extreme heat contributes slightly more than half that (28%). For more, see The Deadliest U.S. Natural Hazard: Extreme Cold.
Of course we all know that the human race has historically done better during warm periods. While we’ve seen a sloght warming in the last century, we’ve also seen a worldwide improvement in the human condition.