Extreme temperatures linked to increased mortality in Latin America

July 05, 2022

New research from the Salud Urbana en América Latina (SALURBAL) project has linked urban mortality rates in Latin American countries to extreme temperatures.

After analyzing the relationship between hot and cold days and mortality in 326 cities across nine countries in Latin America, researchers uncovered that nearly 6% of all deaths can be linked to temperature extremes. The findings were published recently in Nature Medicine and underscore what researchers say is a need for greater climate action.  

Iryna Dronova, professor in the departments of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management and Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning, was one of several UC Berkeley researchers who co-authored the multidisciplinary study.

Dronova and the other authors found that, on very hot days, a one-degree Celsius increase in temperature translates to a 5.7% increase in deaths. Similarly, over 10% of all deaths from respiratory infections can be attributed to extreme cold.

Older adults are especially vulnerable to the effects of extreme temperatures, according to the study’s findings.

“Our findings underscore the need for cities to prepare now for the increasingly frequent and severe extreme temperatures we expect to see over the coming decades,” said Dr. Josiah Kephart of the Drexel Urban Health Collaborative, lead author of the study. “We must act to identify vulnerable populations, adapt critical infrastructure, and improve emergency response measures that will save lives as the climate changes.”

Professor Daniel A. Rodríguez and postdoctoral researcher Maryia Bakhtsiyarava, both of the Department of City and Regional Planning and Institute for Transportation Studies, also contributed to the study.

Read the full article at Nature Medicine.