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Ho, ho — hold it, a Death Map?

December 22nd, 2008

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Need a break from all the seasonal cheer? Researchers at the University of South Carolina have delivered this for the holidays: a detailed “Death Map” showing the weather that’s likeliest to kill us in whatever part of the U.S. we’ve decided to call home.

Happy Hanukkah! Merry Christmas!

The map, kidding aside, is actually making a well-timed debut as the freshly minted Obama Administration is promising to focus on global warming.

According to the color-coded map, which divides the U.S. into 12 weather regions, heat and drought beat out all other meteorological events or trends as the deadliest weather “hazards”. After studying nationwide data going back to 1970, the research team of geography professor Susan Cutter and geography doctoral candidate Kevin Borden found that heat and drought caused 19.6 of the weather-related deaths in the nation. That was followed by “severe summer weather,” (near as I can tell this category includes thunderstorms, high winds and lightning) which accounted for 18.8 percent of deaths and winter weather at 18.1 percent.

Catastrophic weather events such as hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires, which garner disproportionate news coverage, were responsible for 5 percent of weather-related mortalities. (In defense of news crews, property destruction can be much worse with these single-weather disasters, not to mention that their freakish randomness makes them more frightening.) And Californians, mudslides, along with avalanches, (obscurely and ominously identified as “mass movement” events) accounted for another almost one percent.

The USC scientists hope their map can help improve emergency preparedness.

It may also serve as a reminder that keeping cool in summer and warm in winter remain as critical energy challenges, not only so that the country can conserve its resources, but to save lives.

See the full article in the International Journal of Health Geographics. (Warning: This is an academic work; laypeople may want to skip to the pretty and informative charts at the end.)

Copyright © 2008 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media


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