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|TUESDAY, JUNE 13 - OPPRESSIVE WEATHER AND HEALTH
Dr. Larry Kalkstein of the University of Delaware is an expert on the health
effects of weather and climate. A few years ago, he helped the local National
Weather Service develop a better prediction scheme to identify when hot, steamy
weather becomes a significant health concern in our area.
Dr. Kalkstein's methods use temperature and humidity data - as you'd expect. But they
also factor in cloud cover, wind, how long the heat spell will last, and whether
the oppressive weather is occurring early or late in the summer. He's compared
these variables with information about heat-related deaths in the Philadelphia
metropolitan area. That may sound morbid, but the result is a computer program
that helps the Weather Service decide if they should issue an excessive heat watch
or warning for an upcoming bout of oppressive weather.
This procedure has been in place since 1995. During that summer, the City of
Philadelphia Health Department estimated that about 300 heat-related deaths were
averted thanks to this system.