The health effects of extreme heat

A construction worker rests on grass with a safety vest over his face.

How our research is contributing to the public health response

In the United States, heat-related mortality is the number one weather-related killer—and these deaths are nearly all preventable. As global warming continues, scientists predict extreme and dangerous heat waves will be much more common.

The UW Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences (DEOHS) is at the leading edge of research into how extreme heat affects people’s health. We particularly focus on those who are most vulnerable to the health risks, including farmworkers, outdoor laborers and the elderly.

Our research is also identifying new ways to help communities adapt to heat through risk communication, evidence-based policies, land-use strategies and other approaches.

Learn more about this research led by our Center for Health and the Global Environment, Collaborative on Extreme Event Resilience and the Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center, all part of DEOHS.

Our impact

Close-up on youth marching for climate action, with a sign with text "There is No Planet B" and a drawing of the Earth with bright lines surrounding it.

Centering young “climate heroes”

DEOHS-led project takes a collaborative approach to assessing extreme heat health risks in youth BIPOC communities

Kids playing in a fountain

Our top stories of 2023

The year of community resilience: Counting down our most-read stories of 2023

Smoky skies over the Seattle skyline looking west to Olympic Mountains.

Climate change causing ‘indisputable’ harm to our health

5th National Climate Assessment authors include DEOHS climate experts

Headshot of DEOHS Professor Kristie Ebi.

DEOHS Professor Kristie Ebi named 2023 AGU Fellow

American Geophysical Union recognizes Ebi for her work on health-related climate change impacts

Joan Casey sits at a wood table outside on the UW campus with trees in the background.

Seeking sustainability and environmental justice

New DEOHS faculty member Joan Casey uses big data to analyze population-scale health problems and solutions

Families paying in fountain with the words 'Special Feature' over the top.

The heat is on: How to protect health in extreme heat

DEOHS is collaborating with cross-sector partners to prepare for a hotter future in the Pacific Northwest


In the news

Heat-related ER visits rose in 2023, CDC study finds
April 18, 2024 | New York Times | Featured: Kristie L. Ebi View

Climate change affects healthcare systems — and vice-versa
April 12, 2024 | UW Medicine | Featured: Catherine Karr, Hilary Arnold Godwin, Jeremy J Hess View

Protecting workers from extreme heat through an energy-efficient workplace cooling transformation
April 3, 2024 | Federation of American Scientists | Featured: June T. Spector View

Olympic athletes could face a tough opponent: Brutal Paris heat
March 10, 2024 | NBC News | Featured: Kristie L. Ebi View

Fifth National Climate Assessment shows what the Northwest can expect without climate action
January 8, 2024 | The Daily | Featured: Kristie L. Ebi View