Health Risks from Climate Variability and Change in the Upper Midwest: a Place-based Assessment of Climate-related Morbidity

EPA Grant Number: R832750
Title: Health Risks from Climate Variability and Change in the Upper Midwest: a Place-based Assessment of Climate-related Morbidity
Investigators: Patz, Jonathan , Mearns, Linda , Anderson, Henry A. , Tebaldi, Claudia , Wahba, Grace , Chipman, Jonathan , Hanrahan, Lawrence , Kanarek, Marty , Vavrus, Steve , Holloway, Tracey
Institution: University of Wisconsin Madison , Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services , National Center for Atmospheric Research
Current Institution: University of Wisconsin Madison , National Center for Atmospheric Research , Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services
EPA Project Officer: Chung, Serena
Project Period: February 1, 2006 through January 31, 2009
Project Amount: $598,560
RFA: The Impact of Climate Change & Variability on Human Health (2005) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Health , Climate Change , Global Climate Change , Health Effects


We propose to assess temperature-related and water-related health risks of current climate variability and future climate change in the Upper Midwest. To evaluate the morbidity effects of current weather variability, we consider temperature and precipitation extremes. Based on our prior climate-health studies, we hypothesize that morbidity will parallel temperature mortality trends. To project the morbidity effects of future climate change, we will combine present-day risk factors with high resolution regional climate model (RCM) fields for the period 2040-2070. We will adjust for adaptation considering air conditioning projections and urban heat response planning.We hypothesize that the net effect of hot- and cold-related morbidity in Wisconsin and Chicago will depend on the duration and intensity of summertime stagnant air masses and wintertime arctic air surges, as well as precipitation extremes, air conditioning use and improved heat wave disaster planning. Expected intensification of the hydrologic cycle in combination with higher maximum summer temperatures could increase potential health risks from recreational waters. The regional conclusions from this study will inform the development of a Reduced-form Model for integrated decision support, facilitating a low-cost transfer of these analysis methods to other study regions and time periods.


We will run time-series analyses and utilize extreme value theory (“ExtRemeToolkit”) to compare multiple climate and air pollution data to hospital and emergency room admissions from 1989 to 2004 across the 5 largest cities in Wisconsin plus Chicago. To more directly assess climate-related waterborne diseases (frequently unreported) we include analysis of environmental data and reported beach advisories/closings from bacterial contaminants. Future regional climate scenarios will utilize the most updated climate change projections derived in a multi-model ensemble framework, through the analysis of multiple General Circulation Models (GCMs) and downscaled climate from RCMs under the North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Project (NARCCAP) led by NCAR.

Expected Results:

Partnering with the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services, through their established Health Alert Network and Public Health Information Network, we will have the broad and fully integrated stakeholder engagement required to expedite science-based health policy improvements. Our interdisciplinary team expects to advance understanding of the interactive effects of multiple climate parameters and extremes and – by including adaptive responses and socio-demographic projections –produce a credible climate change/health assessment for this climate-sensitive region. Creating an integrated assessment model for decision support will enhance the likelihood that health agencies and other stakeholders will make use of the aggregate knowledge that will emerge from our highly quantitative analyses to better predict and subsequently reduce climate-related health risks.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 29 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 12 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

exposure, watershed, vulnerability, sensitive populations, children, elderly, risk assessment, decision making, cost-benefit, environmental chemistry, epidemiology, remote sensing, Great Lakes,, RFA, Health, Scientific Discipline, Air, Geographic Area, Midwest, Health Risk Assessment, climate change, Risk Assessments, Environmental Monitoring, Ecological Risk Assessment, air quality modeling, ecosystem models, climatic influence, climate related morbidity, emissions impact, modeling, climate models, demographics, human exposure, regional climate model, ambient air pollution, atmospheric models, Global Climate Change

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2006 Progress Report
  • 2007 Progress Report
  • Final Report