HEAT-RELATED DEATHS TO RISE IN MAJOR CITIES REPORT PROJECTS WARMING INCREASING OVER DECADES.
Longer and more intense heat waves throughout California will lead to more heat-related deaths in the decades ahead in several major cities, according to a report released Monday.
The greatest effects will be felt by residents of coastal areas such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, where temperatures are more moderate than in inland areas, according to the report by ATMOS Research and Consulting.
In Los Angeles, the number of summertime heat-related deaths is expected to rise from an average of 160 a year to as many as 700 by 2050.
``The reason is that those people are not used to heat,'' said Larry Kalkstein, a senior research fellow at the Center for Climatic Research at the University of Delaware and one of the report's authors.
``The most sensitive places are those that have infrequent and irregular heat waves, not the places that are already hot.''
The report was based on research from scientists from around the country and is a more-detailed analysis of a larger study the Indiana-based group released in August, which examined the possible wide-ranging effects of global warming on California's agriculture, water supply, coastline and ecology.
The report comes as Angelenos have enjoyed a mild end of summer, with August temperatures an average 3 degrees cooler than normal, according to the National Weather Service.
Temperatures in the San Fernando Valley were 2 degrees cooler than normal in July.
But September started as a hot one, with triple-digit heat and red-flag fire warnings.
Kalkstein urged state and city officials to develop warning systems in advance of periods when scorching temperatures are expected.
Skeptics said the report was based on unreliable projections of global-temperature increases and said it was nearly impossible to accurately predict heat-related deaths decades into the future.
``This sounds to me to be an extremely dubious exercise,'' said Bonner Cohen, an environmental-policy expert with the conservative National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, D.C.
``It's very good for scaring people, but it certainly is not serious science that should be underpinning policy.''
Cold-weather deaths, he said, are a far greater concern.
In addition to Los Angeles, the study projected heat-related mortality rates for San Francisco, Sacramento, Fresno and the Riverside/San Bernardino region.
The study projected a doubling in the number of heat waves across California by 2050, with those periods starting earlier in the year, lasting longer and becoming hotter.
Heat-related deaths can be expected to increase up to 180 percent annually by 2050 and as much as 500 percent annually by the end of the century if the atmosphere continues to warm, according to the report.
The report found that heat-related deaths can be expected to rise in all the areas but Fresno, Kalkstein said.
In Los Angeles, the number of summertime heat-related deaths is expected to rise to between 275 and 700 by 2050, depending on whether levels of greenhouse gas emissions rise or fall.
Researchers determined death projections by examining the hottest summers during the past 25 years and looking at mortality figures from the National Center for Health Statistics.
For those months, they considered the number of deaths that exceeded the average from such causes as heat exhaustion, heart attack, strokes and respiratory distress.
HIGHER HEAT COULD MEAN MORE DEATHS
SOURCE: ATMOS Research and Consulting