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Earth’s average temperature increased by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit from 1901 to 2016. These temperature changes have led to changes in long-term climate patterns. The changing patterns alter the weather from day to day across the world. Climate change has led to heat waves, heavy precipitation (rain, snow, sleet, hail), flooding and air pollution. These changes could affect human health in serious ways. Climate change has been called “the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century.” Dealing with climate change could be an opportunity to improve health.
Historical climate change data including extreme heat, historic temperature, and extreme precipitation are available on the MiTracking data portal.
Along with the rest of the world, the Midwest’s climate is changing. The region has gotten warmer and wetter since 1900. In Michigan, average yearly temperature has increased by two to three degrees Fahrenheit across most of the state. Climate change is also leading to shifting seasonal patterns and more extreme events. Current climate forecasts show extreme weather patterns will increase through the 21st century. Extreme weather like extreme heat and precipitation are influencing planning and response activities across sectors in Michigan.
In Michigan the greatest weather concerns are extreme heat and precipitation events.
The five priority weather-related health impacts of concern in Michigan are:
- Heat-related illness
- Waterborne diseases
- Respiratory diseases
- Vector-borne diseases
- Injury and carbon monoxide poisoning
For information on how climate can affect Michigan health, visit the Michigan Climate and Health Profile Report.
Changing temperature and precipitation increases in extreme weather events can affect health in direct and indirect ways. Health effects such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat syncope, and heat stroke can happen during high ambient temperatures. Extreme precipitation events can directly impact human health through injuries, drowning, hypothermia, infectious diseases and ongoing mental health, as well as indirectly impact infrastructure and economic vulnerability, water resources (i.e. pollution and scarcity), and agricultural loss. Increases in waterborne disease outbreaks have been reported following a heavy rainfall. Buildings that experience water intrusion can develop mold contamination, which can lead to indoor air quality problems.
For information on how climate can affect health, visit CDC - Climate Effects on Health.
While climate change can affect everyone, some people and places will be affected more than others.
Those at a higher risk of experiencing health effects are:
The following groups:
- Outdoor workers
- Pregnant women
People with the following conditions:
- Chronic illness
- Low income
Even short periods of high temperature can cause serious, and sometimes life-threatening, health problems. The heat index is a term the National Weather Service uses for a combination of temperature and humidity. It lets you know how hot it feels outside better than temperature alone. There are steps you can take to avoid heat illness when it’s hot outside like:
- Stay out of the sun.
- Check your local weather.
- Never leave pets, children, or elderly in a closed, parked car.
- Drink plenty of water.
Heavy rain events can lead to floods. Floods can occur in a few ways. They can happen in areas with a history of flooding, for example, places near rivers or cities near sea level, like New Orleans. They can also happen when man-made systems like stormwater drains are clogged or overloaded with too much rain. The rate of flooding can be slow, happening over days or weeks, or there can be flash floods which can happen in hours. There are steps you can take to stay safe, healthy, and prepared like:
- Avoid floodwater.
- Make sure food and water are safe before you consume them.
- Know how to get rid of mold safely.
- Make an emergency plan.
Learn how to stay safe, healthy, and how to prepare at Michigan Prepares - Floods.
Climate Change MiTracking Indicators
- Number of Extreme Heat Days (daily heat index above 90°F)
- Number of Extreme Heat Events (2 or more days in a row with the daily heat index above 90°F)
Historic Temperature Data
- Monthly average temperatures in degrees Fahrenheit
- Number of Extreme Precipitation Days (days with 1 or more inches of precipitation)
MiTracking Data Can Tell Us
- Annual trends for the number of extreme heat days and events
- Monthly average temperatures for May-September since 1979
- Annual trends for the number of extreme precipitation days for Michigan counties since 1979
MiTracking Data Cannot Tell Us
- How vulnerable the populations within the counties are to heat-related illnesses.
- How vulnerable the populations within the counties are to flood-related injuries or waterborne diseases.
- How the trends for extreme heat, temperature, and extreme precipitation will continue into the future.
Find Out More
The temperature and precipitation data were downloaded from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) North American Land Data Assimilation System (NLDAS), processed by the CDC's National Environmental Public Health Tracking program, and reviewed by MICHAP and MiTracking. For more data information, visit:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Michigan Climate and Health Adaptation Program (MICHAP)
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
National Weather Service
U.S. Global Change Research Program
Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments (GLISA). (2019) Climate Change in the Great Lakes Region. Retrieved from http://glisa.umich.edu/media/files/GLISA%202%20Pager%202019.pdf
Hayhoe, K., Wuebbles, D.J., Easterling, D.R., Fahey, D.W., Doherty, S., Kossin, J., Sweet, W., Vose, R., & Wehner, M. (2018). Our Changing Climate. In Reidmiller, D.R., Avery, C.W., Easterling, D.R., Kunkel, K.E., Lewis, K.L.M., Maycock, T.K., & Stewart, B.C. (Eds.), Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume 2. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC. doi: 10.7930/NCA4.2018
USGCRP. (2016). The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment. Crimmins, A., Balbus, J., Gamble, J.L., Beard, C.B., Bell, J.E., Dodgen, D., Eisen, R.J.,et al (Eds.). U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC. http://dx.doi.org/10.7930/J0R49NQX
Walsh, J., Wuebbles, D., Hayhoe, K., Kossin, J., Kunkel, K., Stephens, G.,et al (2014). Our Changing Climate. In Melillo, J.M., Richmond, T.C., & Yohe, G.W. (Eds.), Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment, U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC. doi:10.7930/J0KW5CXT.
Wang, H., & Horton, R. (2015), Tackling climate change: the greatest opportunity for global health. Lancet386(10006), 1798-9. Doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(15)60931-X
WHO. (2016). Climate Change and Human Health. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/globalchange/global-campaign/cop21/en/.