The deadly effect of day-to-day temperature variation in the United States


Recent research has found anthropogenic forcing to also affect day-to-day variability of temperatures. For many people, the climate is not only becoming hotter but also more volatile. Based on the new climate-economy literature, I explore the historical impact of day-to-day temperature variation on mortality in the United States over a 35-year period. I find that an extra +1°C of daily temperature variability caused an additional 0.206 deaths per 100  000, equal to a 0.28% increase in the average monthly mortality rate. There is, however, evidence of adaptation to daily temperature variability as income and access to air-conditioning have increased and as people have become accustomed to large seasonal variation in temperatures. Given the deadly effect of day-to-day temperature variation, falling average daily temperature variability in the US since 1970 could have resulted in as many as 1400 and 1600 premature deaths avoided every winter and summer, respectively. In comparison, the increase in the number of days with a mean temperature above 35 ∘C could have caused an additional 655 premature deaths every year. These back-of-the-envelope calculations show that current estimates of the social cost of carbon are omitting an important channel for the mortality impact of climate change by not considering this additional effect of temperature volatility.

Environmental Research Letters, 17(10)