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October 23/30, 2018

The Need to Integrate Climate Science Into Public Health Preparedness for Hurricanes and Tropical Cyclones

Author Affiliations
  • 1Center for Disaster & Extreme Event Preparedness (DEEP Center), Department of Public Health Sciences (DPHS), University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, Florida
  • 2NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), Center for Weather and Climate, Madison, Wisconsin
  • 3School of Public Health, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA. 2018;320(16):1637-1638. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.16006

Hurricane Florence made landfall as a Category 1 storm near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, on Friday, September 14, 2018, with 90-mph winds. At the same time, 3 other named storms—Helene, Isaac, and Joyce—roamed the Atlantic; Tropical Storm Olivia had just passed over Hawaii; and “Super Typhoon” Mangkhut, the strongest tropical cyclone of 2018, was hours away from sweeping over the Philippines with 165-mph (Category 5) winds.

September is often a busy month for global tropical activity, but there has been a changing scenario in recent years. The warming planet is likely to be influencing the characteristics and behavior of extreme storms.1 At the same time, public health preparedness is not keeping pace with advancing climate science knowledge about how tropical storm systems are changing and potentially becoming more dangerous.1 A closer integration of climate science with public health planning and response will be essential to mitigate the worsening health consequences of future extreme storms.