Climate Change Overview

Climate Change in Minnesota: Minnesota Climate and Health Profile Report

The Minnesota Climate and Health Profile Report 2015 (PDF: 3MB/100 pages) summarizes the historic climate trends, future projections, and likely impacts of these climate changes on the health of Minnesotans. The report explains the pathways between identified Minnesota climate hazards (i.e., air pollution, extreme heat, flood, drought and ecosystem threats, including vector-borne diseases and harmful algal blooms) and their corresponding health impacts. The following information on this website provides an overview of historic climate trends and the linkages between climate change and health impacts, including a more detailed explanation of extreme heat impacts.

Increases in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are leading to increases in ambient temperatures [1] (see Figure 1), which in turn are leading to extremes in precipitation (see Figure 2) and changes in humidity (see Figure 3).

Figure 1: Average Annual All-Season Temperature for Minnesota

This figure shows a line chart of average annual temperature from 1895 to 2013 in Minnesota. Two trend lines highlight the first 50 years temperature increased at 1.1 degrees fahrenheit per century and in the last 50 years temperature increased at 5.3 degrees fahrenheit per century.

Source: NOAA/NCDC, 2014.

Figure 2: Minnesota Annual Average Precipitation (Inches)

This figure is a line chart that shows annual average precipitation in inches for Minnesota from 1895 to 2013. Two trends lines highlight the trends for two periods: 1895 to 1959 and 1960 to 2013. The first trend line shows a decrease of 1.5 inches per century in rainfall from 1895 to 1959 and the second trend line shows an increase of 3.5 inches per centry in rainfall from 1960 to 2013.

Source: NOAA/NCDC, 2014.

Figure 3: Twin Cities Annual Number of Days Where Dew Point Temperature Was Greater Than or Equal to 70 Degrees Fahrenheit

chart of dew point temperature trends in minnsota from 1945 to 2010

Source: Dr. Mark Seeley, Climatologist, University of Minnesota

All of these atmospheric influences (GHG emissions, temperature, precipitation, humidity) are directly or indirectly causing disruptions in four key aspects of the human environment—air, weather, water, and ecosystems. Changes in these areas are in turn leading to situations that threaten the health and vitality of human communities through increased air pollution, extreme heat events, floods, droughts and ecosystem threats (see Figure 4).

Figure 4: Links between the rise in atmospheric greenhouse gases, changes to the Earth’s climate, impacts on key aspects of the environment, and climate hazards relevant to the health of Minnesotans

This figure is a flow diagram that shows that the rise in atmospheric greenhouse gases will lead to increases in temperature, change in precipitation and increases in humidity, which will lead to change in air, weather, water and ecosystems, which will affect air pollution, extreme heat, floods, drought and threaten ecosystems -  the climate hazards relevant to the health of Minnesotans.

For example, increases in ambient air temperatures and humidity are predicted to increase the frequency, duration and severity of extreme heat events (see Figure 5).

Figure 5: Links between the rise in atmospheric greenhouse gases, changes to the Earth’s climate, and direct and indirect impacts on health from extreme heat events

This figure is a flow diagram that shows the links between the rise in atmospheric greenhouse gases, changes to the Earth’s climate, and direct and indirect impacts on health from extreme heat events. As greenhouse gases increases, temperature rises, precipitation changes and humidity increases. These changes in climate lead to changes in air, weather, water and ecosystems, which affect extreme heat. Extreme heat has direct health impacts (heat stress, worsening of pre-existing conditions, and heat-related mortality) and indirect health impacts (infrastructure failures, strain on essential services, and disruptions in key social networks).

Direct health effects from extreme heat include symptoms associated with heat stress, such as fatigue, cramps, headaches and nausea, or responses that are much more extreme, including heat stroke, organ failure, and even death. In 2012, there were 1,715 emergency department visits and six deaths due to extreme heat. In addition, heat waves can exacerbate pre-existing medical conditions or diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, kidney ailments and mental or behavioral disorders. Indirect health effects from extreme heat include infrastructure failures like power outages; disruption of some occupations (especially those involving outdoor, strenuous labor), schooling, or major events, like athletic competitions or festivals; and a strain on emergency and health care services, in particular 911 response and emergency department operations.

For more information on climate change impacts on health, download the Minnesota Climate and Health Profile Report 2015 (PDF: 3MB/100 pages).

References

[1] Melillo, Jerry M., Terese (T.C.) Richmond, and Gary W. Yohe, Eds., 2014: Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment. U.S. Global Change Research Program, 841 pp. doi:10.7930/J0Z31WJ2.

External resources on climate change:

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Climate Change 101 Training Module

image of the climate change and public health module cover page

MDH developed the Climate Change and Public Health 101 Training Module to provide an overview of the most likely climate changes in Minnesota and their potential impacts on public health. This module may be used as an educational piece for interested persons or as a "train the trainer" module for local public health departments. The training has been fully scripted for that purpose.



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Updated Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 01:14PM