Between 2010 and 2019, the hottest decade on record, California’s official data from death certificates attributed 599 deaths to heat exposure.
But a Times analysis found that the true toll is probably six times higher. An examination of mortality data from this period shows that thousands more people died on extremely hot days than would have been typical during milder weather. All told, the analysis estimates that extreme heat caused about 3,900 deaths.
California’s undercount is one of the ways it overlooks the threat posed by heat waves, even as climate change delivers them more frequently, more intensely and with deadlier consequences. Other states are moving with greater urgency to confront this public health challenge that disproportionately imperils the elderly and vulnerable.
Extreme heat did not suddenly become a threat to Californians’ lives. The Times found that state leaders have ignored years of warnings from within their own agencies that heat was becoming more dangerous. Data reviewed by The Times show heat-related hospital visits increasing in some parts of California, including Los Angeles County, for at least the last 15 years.
Author(s): Anna M. Phillips, Tony Barboza, Ruben Vives, Sean Greene
Publication Date: 7 Oct 2021
Publication Site: LA Times