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Climate Change, Extreme Weather Events, and US Health Impacts: What Can We Say?

Mills, David M. MA

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: January 2009 - Volume 51 - Issue 1 - p 26-32
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31817d32da
Original Articles: Special Section on Climate Change and Health

Objective: Address how climate change impacts on a group of extreme weather events could affect US public health.

Methods: A literature review summarizes arguments for, and evidence of, a climate change signal in select extreme weather event categories, projections for future events, and potential trends in adaptive capacity and vulnerability in the United States.

Results: Western US wildfires already exhibit a climate change signal. The variability within hurricane and extreme precipitation/flood data complicates identifying a similar climate change signal.

Conclusions: Health impacts of extreme events are not equally distributed and are very sensitive to a subset of exceptional extreme events. Cumulative uncertainty in forecasting climate change driven characteristics of extreme events and adaptation prevents confidently projecting the future health impacts from hurricanes, wildfires, and extreme precipitation/floods in the United States attributable to climate change.

From Stratus Consulting Inc., Boulder, Colo (Mr Mills).

CME Available for this Article at

This research received initial support from ICF International, Inc. No additional outside funding was received.

Address correspondence to: David M. Mills, MA, Stratus Consulting Inc., 1881 Ninth Street, Suite 201, Boulder, CO 80302; E-mail:

©2009The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine