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Climate Change, Air Quality, and Health: Assessing Potential Impacts Over the Eastern US

Kinney, P*; Bell, M; Hogrefe, C; Knowlton, K*; Rosenthal, J*; Rosenzweig, C§ et al

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doi: 10.1097/01.ede.0000276727.37336.78
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While climate change could pose a wide range of risks to public health, two of the more direct impacts are likely to be increases in the frequency and/or severity of heat waves and episodes of unhealthy air quality. The objective of this study was to develop and test an integrated modeling system for projecting future health impacts of heat and air quality due to climate change.

Material and Methods:

We developed a coupled global/regional scale modeling system to simulate the effects of global climate change on regional climate and air quality over the eastern United States to project potential public health impacts in the region. Two alternative greenhouse gas emissions growth scenarios (SRES A2 and B2) were used as inputs to the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) global General Circulation Model (GCM). Initial and boundary conditions of meteorology projected by the GCM over the United States were used as inputs to the MM5 regional-scale climate model, which simulated June/July/August hourly meteorology for 5 summers of the 1990s, 2020s, 2050s, and 2080s on a 36 km grid over the eastern United States. Air pollution emissions estimates over the eastern United States in the 1990s were combined with the 36 km meteorology simulations to model the impacts of future climate change on ground level hourly ozone concentrations, using the Community Multiscale Air Quality (CMAQ) model.


Trends in health-related extreme heat events and ozone episodes were evaluated over the 4 decadal periods. Results confirmed that climate change is likely to impact both ozone and heat stress in future decades in the eastern United States and that these impacts will vary over locations and decades.


The modeling system we developed provides a useful new tool for assessing potential health impacts of heat and ozone under a changing climate.

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.