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Heat Illness and Death Among Workers — United States, 2012–2013

August 28, 2014 Comments off

Heat Illness and Death Among Workers — United States, 2012–2013
Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC)

Exposure to heat and hot environments puts workers at risk for heat stress, which can result in heat illnesses and death. This report describes findings from a review of 2012‒2013 Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) federal enforcement cases (i.e., inspections) resulting in citations under paragraph 5(a)(1), the “general duty clause” of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. That clause requires that each employer “furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees” (1). Because OSHA has not issued a heat standard, it must use 5(a)(1) citations in cases of heat illness or death to enforce employers’ obligations to provide a safe and healthy workplace. During the 2-year period reviewed, 20 cases of heat illness or death were cited for federal enforcement under paragraph 5(a)(1) among 18 private employers and two federal agencies. In 13 cases, a worker died from heat exposure, and in seven cases, two or more employees experienced symptoms of heat illness. Most of the affected employees worked outdoors, and all performed heavy or moderate work, as defined by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (2). Nine of the deaths occurred in the first 3 days of working on the job, four of them occurring on the worker’s first day. Heat illness prevention programs at these workplaces were found to be incomplete or absent, and no provision was made for the acclimatization of new workers. Acclimatization is the result of beneficial physiologic adaptations (e.g., increased sweating efficiency and stabilization of circulation) that occur after gradually increased exposure to heat or a hot environment (3). Whenever a potential exists for workers to be exposed to heat or hot environments, employers should implement heat illness prevention programs (including acclimatization requirements) at their workplaces.

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U.S. Forest Service — New Report Shows Budget Impact of Rising Firefighting Costs

August 27, 2014 Comments off

New Report Shows Budget Impact of Rising Firefighting Costs
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced a new report showing that as the cost of fighting forest fires has rapidly increased over the last 20 years, the budgets for other forest programs, including those that can help prevent and mitigate fire damage, have substantially shrunk. The Forest Service’s firefighting appropriation has rapidly risen as a proportion of the Forest Service’s overall budget, increasing from 16 percent in 1995 to 42 percent today, forcing cuts in other budget areas.

“Climate change, drought, fuel buildup and insects and disease are increasing the severity of catastrophic wildfire in America’s forests,” Vilsack said. “In order to protect the public, the portion of the Forest Service budget dedicated to combatting fire has drastically increased from what it was 20 years ago. This has led to substantial cuts in other areas of the Forest Service budget, including efforts to keep forests healthy, reduce fire risk, and strengthen local economies.”

Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters

August 8, 2014 Comments off

Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters
Source: NOAA

On August 6, NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center released updated information on 2013 Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters and several new tools to assist users in analyzing the data. These new features allow users to better explore the type, frequency and cost of U.S. billion-dollar events by state and year, from 1980 to 2013.

Based on updated financial information, NOAA is adding two new disasters to the 2013 total to include an Illinois Flooding and Severe Weather that occurred April 16-19, 2013, and a Midwest Severe Weather event that occurred August 6-7, 2013. This brings the total number of 2013 billion-dollar weather and climate events to nine. The estimated cost of damages from these events is $23 billion dollars.

NOAA also reanalyzed the entire period of record to examine events that were close to $1 billion threshold. Based on this reanalysis, 17 were added events to the entire period of record dating back to 1980, including several drought in the early part of the record.

NOAA’s updated Atlantic hurricane season outlook calls for an increased chance of a below-normal season

August 7, 2014 Comments off

NOAA’s updated Atlantic hurricane season outlook calls for an increased chance of a below-normal season
Source: NOAA

Forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center raised the likelihood for a below-normal season in today’s update to the Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook. The update predicts a 70 percent chance of a below-normal season, a 25 percent chance of a near-normal season and only a five percent chance of an above-normal season. The probabilities in the initial outlook issued on May 22 were 50 percent, 40 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

Deaths Attributed to Heat, Cold, and Other Weather Events in the United States, 2006–2010

July 31, 2014 Comments off

Deaths Attributed to Heat, Cold, and Other Weather Events in the United States, 2006–2010 (PDF)
Source: National Center for Health Statistics

Objectives—
This report examines heat-related mortality, cold-related mortality, and other weather-related mortality during 2006–2010 among subgroups of U.S. residents.

Methods—
Weather-related death rates for demographic and area-based subgroups were computed using death certificate information. Adjusted odds ratios for weather-related deaths among subgroups were estimated using logistic regression.

Results and Conclusions—
During 2006–2010, about 2,000 U.S. residents died each year from weather-related causes of death. About 31% of these deaths were attributed to exposure to excessive natural heat, heat stroke, sun stroke, or all; 63% were attributed to exposure to excessive natural cold, hypothermia, or both; and the remaining 6% were attributed to floods, storms, or lightning. Weather-related death rates varied by age, race and ethnicity, sex, and characteristics of decedent’s county of residence (median income, region, and urbanization level). Adjustment for region and urbanization decreased the risk of heat-related mortality among Hispanic persons and increased the risk of cold-related mortality among non-Hispanic black persons, compared with non-Hispanic white persons. Adjustment also increased the risk of heat-related mortality and attenuated the risk of cold-related mortality for counties in the lower three income quartiles.

The differentials in weather-related mortality observed among demographic subgroups during 2006–2010 in the United States were consistent with those observed in previous national studies. This study demonstrated that a better understanding of subpopulations at risk from weather-related mortality can be obtained by considering area-based variables (county median household income, region, and urbanization level) when examining weather-related mortality patterns.

Climate data from air, land, sea and ice in 2013 reflect trends of a warming planet

July 17, 2014 Comments off

Climate data from air, land, sea and ice in 2013 reflect trends of a warming planet
Source: NOAA

In 2013, the vast majority of worldwide climate indicators—greenhouse gases, sea levels, global temperatures, etc.—continued to reflect trends of a warmer planet, according to the indicators assessed in the State of the Climate in 2013 report, released online today by the American Meteorological Society.

Scientists from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., served as the lead editors of the report, which was compiled by 425 scientists from 57 countries around the world (highlights, visuals, full report). It provides a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable weather events, and other data collected by environmental monitoring stations and instruments on air, land, sea, and ice.

“These findings reinforce what scientists for decades have observed: that our planet is becoming a warmer place,” said NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D. “This report provides the foundational information we need to develop tools and services for communities, business, and nations to prepare for, and build resilience to, the impacts of climate change.”

The report uses dozens of climate indicators to track patterns, changes, and trends of the global climate system, including greenhouse gases; temperatures throughout the atmosphere, ocean, and land; cloud cover; sea level; ocean salinity; sea ice extent; and snow cover. These indicators often reflect many thousands of measurements from multiple independent datasets. The report also details cases of unusual and extreme regional events, such as Super Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated portions of Southeast Asia in November 2013.

Summer Fun: How Much Hotter Will Your City Be?

July 11, 2014 Comments off

Summer Fun: How Much Hotter Will Your City Be?
Source: Climate Central

If it feels hot to you now in the dog days of this summer, imagine a time when summertime Boston starts feeling like Miami and even Montana sizzles.

Thanks to climate change, that day is coming by the end of the century, making it harder to avoid simmering temperatures.

Summers in most of the U.S. are already warmer than they were in the 1970s. And climate models tell us that summers are going to keep getting hotter as greenhouse gas emissions continue. What will this warming feel like? Our new analysis of future summers illustrates just how dramatic warming is going to be by the end of this century if current emissions trends continue unabated.

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