U.S. Natural Hazards Statistics for 2020 compiled by the Office of Services and the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) on the fatalities, injuries, and damages. Information was obtained using Storm Data, a report comprising data from NWS forecast offices in the 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands.
An interesting study by the New York Times found that violent crime rose significantly in the United States in 2015 and 2016. But, why? During this time, average temperatures during the year were 2-3 F above normal. Days with a high 85 degrees and above spurred a 2.2% increase in general crime and a 5.7% increase in violent crime, on average in Philadelphia. Poorer residents in older buildings and with no air conditioning are the most likely to be affected by the punishing heat.
However, chilly temperatures have proved themselves to be deadlier than the heat. According to a 2014 study by the CDC, approximately 1300 deaths per year occurred between 2006 and 2010 Beyond the effects of hypothermia and frostbite, the cold can worsen heart and respiratory conditions, particularly while participating in winter activities and shoveling.
During the wintertime, colder temperatures lead to drier air, which may dehydrate mucous membranes and prevent the body from effectively “washing out” viruses before they attach to the lining. Viruses are preserved better in colder temperatures due to slower decomposition, so that they are able to linger longer on exposed surfaces (doorknobs, countertops, etc.). In addition, increased time spent indoors with family and friends in close quarters may make virus transmission more likely. Typically, influenza, colds, and norovirus (also known as the “stomach bug”) peak from December through February, although the season may start as early as late fall. COVID-19 does not seem to follow the seasonal pattern, like other coronviruses that cause the common cold. Health models forecast a steady decline of COVID cases through the winter and spring, assuming there are no other transmissible variants that arise.
Have you ever heard someone say they could tell a storm was coming by the pain in their knees or back? For some, cold weather may trigger joint pain or flares for autoimmune diseases. One condition, known as Raynaud’s phenomenon, affects blood flow to the extremities, unlike the gradual changes due to a frostbite injury. In people who have Raynaud’s, the small blood vessels are over-sensitive to changes in temperature, stress, or anxiety, leading to a blu-ish or white tint to fingers and toes, tingling, pain, and numbness.
For others, gray skies and long, cold winter days can challenge a positive mental health outlook. Seasonal affective disorder (also known as SAD) is more than just the “winter blues”; symptoms can include low energy levels, decreased interest in activities, and sleep disturbances. Light therapy, cognitive therapies, and medication can be helpful if experiencing these symptoms.
In summer and winter, wearing loose light fitting clothing (layers in the winter) can help your body adjust to extreme swings in temperature. Ensure your circulation is at its optimum by breathing and stretching before outdoor exercise. Take off wet clothing as soon as possible and ensure you have an extra set of dry clothes. Avoid triggers to certain health conditions by reducing your stress levels through activities such as yoga, deep breathing, and meditation. When considering rising temperatures around the world, deaths from the cold may be reduced, but may exacerbate other health effects, including insect-borne illnesses.
To learn more about other topics about Weather and Your Health, please click here! (www.globalweatherclimatecenter.com/weather-health-topics).
©2021 Meteorologist Sharon Sullivan