Tracking Climate Change

Climate change refers to major changes in temperature, precipitation, wind, and other meteorological factors, that occur over several decades or longer.

Climate change is constantly occurring as part of a natural process. Continental drift, ocean currents, volcanoes, solar cycles, and variations in the earth’s orbit and tilt are all natural causes of climate change. These natural processes affect the climate gradually over long periods of time.

Human activities also contribute to climate change. When fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas are used to generate electricity, heat homes and run cars, heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide and methane are produced and get mixed into the atmosphere. These gases act like a blanket, warming the earth by trapping heat as it radiates away from the surface. Deforestation and land clearing also result in carbon dioxide emissions, while certain farming activities and landfills can be sources of methane emissions.

Tracking Climate Change

Extreme heat events, or heat waves, are warmer than normal air masses that last for several days. High temperatures can cause major problems for people without air conditioning or those living in urban areas. CDC tracks the effects of an extreme heat event by collecting and reviewing the number of health conditions reported from local hospitals and the number of deaths reported from state health departments. Reviewing these national data help scientists make comparisons between environmental conditions and health problems.

Other examples of how heat vulnerability data can be used are to:

  • Compare rates across the state to plan interventions;
  • Gain a better understanding of trends in heat-related deaths over time; and
  • Identify communities at risk and the groups of people that may be at high risk.

Heat and Health: Understanding Community Risk

Health Effects from Climate Change

Changes in our climate will likely impact several important health outcomes such as heat-related illness, allergies, asthma and infectious disease. In light of these facts, public health officials are evaluating the risk of climate change and extreme weather in their region, and are designing adaptation plans to ensure the health and safety of NH residents under changing conditions. Vulnerable populations include children, the elderly, people with pre-existing conditions or disabilities, and those living in low-income communities.