Weather Extremes

man carrying child in flooded area
Table of Contents


Extreme weather can have adverse effects on human health, including dangers from flooding, heat, and severe cold. These events can have secondary concerns, ranging from wildfires to harmful algal blooms. NIEHS has resources on many of these areas, some of which you will find below.

Hurricanes & Floods

These resources are aimed at protecting the health and safety of those responding to the aftermath of a hurricane or a flood, including emergency responders, skilled support personnel, homeowners, and business owners. Explore the Hurricanes & Floods resources.

What is NIEHS Doing?

NIEHS Research Efforts

  • 4 Hour Heat Stress Training Student Manual (14MB) - This course was prepared for DOE Hanford workers, worker-trainers and health and safety professionals. This course deals with the topics of heat stress, heat strain and heat-related illness (HRI), their measurement and control and pertinent regulations.
  • Bridging the Knowledge-to-Action Gap through Community-Engaged Research - Nutmeg production workers recovering after a devastating hurricane in Grenada and health ministry staff fighting Ebola in Liberia have very different concerns to address. But in these cases and others, community-engaged research - a framework built on partnerships and dialogue between researchers and communities - has increased knowledge and improved health outcomes.
  • Causes of Hospitalization During Heat Waves - Researchers partially funded by NIEHS report that, among older adults, heat waves were associated with increased risk of hospitalization for fluid and electrolyte disorders, renal failure, urinary tract infection, sepsis, and heat stroke. Extreme heat is the most common cause of deaths tied to severe weather in the United States.
  • Climate and Human Health - As the planet warms, oceans expand and the sea level rises, floods and droughts become more frequent and intense, and heat waves and hurricanes become more severe.
  • Climate Change and Environmental Exposures Challenge - Challenge entries focused on creating data visualization tools and maps that connect current science on climate change to the exposure pathways for environmental hazards, in order to help decision makers and communities identify areas and people at greatest risk and help to prioritize protective actions.
  • Compound From Mold Linked to Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease - NIEHS grantees report that an organic compound emitted by mold might be linked to Parkinson's and other neurodegenerative diseases in humans. Studies have found evidence that several environmental agents, especially pesticides, are possible risk factors for Parkinson's disease, but this is the first naturally occurring environmental agent identified as a potential risk factor.
  • Dealing with Disasters - In Part 1 of this 2-part series, hear about the types of health risks associated with disasters and how disaster research helps to reduce the health-related impacts of disasters. In Part 2, learn what NIEHS is doing to improve researchers' ability to collect data, track recovery, and inform future disaster preparation and response as part of a national disaster risk reduction effort. A Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH) podcast from January 19, 2016.
  • Disaster Recovery Collaboration - Hurricane Sandy Experience (2MB) - Presentation by Natalie N Grant, MPH. US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR).
  • Disaster Research Response - DR2 is the national framework for research on the medical and public health aspects of disasters and public health emergencies.
  • Disaster Research Response Project Tabletop Exercise (9MB) - NIEHS presentations from a April 7, 2014 Webinar.
  • Drought Associated With Risk Of Hospital Admissions And Mortality - In a new study, NIEHS grantees reported an association between drought conditions and increased risk of death among older adults.
  • Extreme Weather, Climate, and Health: Putting Science into Practice - In 2013 the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American Public Health Association (APHA), National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), and Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), hosted a meeting to bring together NIH and CDC academic, state and city grantees working on Climate Change and Health projects to present their latest findings and discuss strategies for linking science to practice.
  • Environmental Health Outreach in Puerto Rico - In 2017, NIEHS sponsored a week of educational, collaboration, and outreach activities in San Juan, Puerto Rico in late March, led by NIEHS and National Toxicology Program Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D.
  • Flooding and Hurricanes: Fugitive Chemical Health Risks - Coastal storms heighten the potential for hazardous chemicals to spread due to facility damage, storm surge, and flooding — creating "fugitive" chemicals.
  • Heat - Prolonged exposure to extreme heat can cause heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat stroke, and death, as well as exacerbate preexisting chronic conditions, such as various respiratory, cerebral, and cardiovascular diseases.
  • Hurricane Sandy Response Report (11MB) - In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, under the National Disaster Recovery Framework, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Worker Education and Training Program (WETP) prepared and trained cleanup workers, homeowners, and volunteers about the hazards that can be found in impacted areas.
  • Indicators for Extreme Weather and Health: What is Needed for Better Surveillance (997KB) - A presentation by Paul English, PhD, MPH, Environmental Health Investigations Branch California Department of Public Health.
  • Investigating Health Effects of Climate-Related Disasters in the United States - Despite the frequency of climate-related natural disasters (e.g., hurricanes, floods), little is known about how such disasters affect all-cause human mortality and morbidity. Research identifying health risks for all-cause mortality and morbidity, including cardiovascular and respiratory risks, would inform disaster planning and response.
  • Mold Exposure - Mold Cleanup and Treatment orientation for workers, volunteers, and homeowners who engage in small-scale mold cleanup and treatment of flooded or water-damaged homes.
  • MOLD: Health & Training Implications for Worker Populations (88KB) - NIEHS WETP has begun studying the emerging issue of mold remediation as it applies to the development of guidelines for the protection and training of remediation workers. This panel discussion examined current microbial remediation guidelines, work practices, training needs and curricula development.
  • New Plant Research Discoveries May Help Solve Global Food Deficiencies - One project in Julian Schroeder's lab focuses on identifying genes that mediate sodium stress and drought resistance, as well as heavy metal uptake and detoxification in plants.
  • New York City Climate and Health: Responding Today, Adapting for Tomorrow (855KB) - A presentation by Nathan Graber, MD, MPH, Environmental Disease Prevention, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene at the Extreme Weather, Climate and Health Symposium Washington, D.C., January 31, 2013.
  • WTP Grantee Provides New Career Paths to Veterans (1MB) - The Center, funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Worker Training Program's (WTP)Environmental Career Worker Training Program (ECWTP), has a long history of providing training to workers on health and safety issues related to: cleanup of hazardous waste sites, handling and treatment of chemicals, and planning for emergency response scenarios.
  • Quick Review of the NRT Fatigue Management Guidance (1MB) - A presentation from an October 2014 NIEHS workshop by Bruce Lippy, Ph.D., CIH, CSP, CPWR.
  • The Urgent Need to Building Personal and Psychosocial Resilience for Climate Change (2MB) - Left unaddressed, the harmful personal mental health and psychosocial reactions to climate impacts will be as bad or worse than the physical impacts. A presentation by Bob Doppelt.
  • Vectorborne and Zoonotic Diseases - Vectorborne and zoonotic diseases are infectious diseases whose transmission involves animal hosts or vectors.
  • Visualizing Climate, Health, and Flooding - Hear about how scientists and communities are using innovative data visualization tools to look at flooding. Global Environmental Health Podcast, April 25, 2016.
  • Waterborne Diseases - Outbreaks of waterborne diseases often occur after a severe precipitation event (rainfall, snowfall).
  • Weather-Related Health Impacts - The United States experiences a variety of extreme weather events, including hurricanes, flood, blizzards, and droughts. These events can lead to severe infrastructure damage and high rates of morbidity (illness) and mortality (death).
  • Wildfires - Resources and training in support of wildfire response operations in the United States.
  • Work-Related Fatal Injuries From Disasters (290KB) - Presentation by Gregory Fayard, MPH, Bureau of Labor Statistics OSHA/NIEHS Disaster Site Worker Workshop, May 21, 2008.

Further Reading

Stories from the Environmental Factor (NIEHS Newsletter)

Press Releases

Additional Resources

  • Between Extremes: Health Effects of Heat and Cold
    EHP Issue, 2015. Although heat waves and cold snaps pose major health risks and grab headlines when they occur, recent studies have uncovered a more complex and perhaps unexpected relationship between temperature and public health.
  • EHP Extreme Weather Collection
    This collection presents high-impact research, reviews, feature articles, podcasts, and other materials published in Environmental Health Perspectives that explore the health risks and impacts of extreme weather both now and in the future.
  • Evaluation of a Heat Vulnerability Index on Abnormally Hot Days: An Environmental Public Health Tracking Study
    The authors sought to determine whether areas with higher heat vulnerability, as characterized by the HVI, experienced higher rates of morbidity and mortality on abnormally hot days.
    The Federal Emergency Management Agency, an official website of the Department of Homeland Security.
    From the National Hurricane Center, an office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
  • Mold Exposures Promote Both Allergic and Inflammatory Responses
    National Toxicology Program Update, 2016
    Ready is a National public service campaign designed to educate and empower the American people to prepare for, respond to and mitigate emergencies, including natural and man-made disasters.

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