The National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS)
Extreme heat, whether in the form of rising long-term average temperatures or punctuated by heat waves, is a global health threat. In the US, it is already deadlier than all other natural disasters combined, and it will clearly be exacerbated by a changing climate. The NIHHIS is being developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and domestic and international partners to understand this problem, develop a robust and science-informed response, and build capacity and communication networks to improve resilience.
NIHHIS helps prepare the U.S. for climate and weather extremes
By the end of this century, what have previously been once-in-20-year extreme heat days (1-day events) are projected to occur every two or three years over most of the nation., In other words, what now seems like an extremely hot day will become commonplace.” (National Climate Assessment, 2014
Extreme weather or climate events such as heat waves, hurricanes, or floods can profoundly affect society and the environment, resulting in loss of life, productivity, property, and natural habitat. From 1979-2003, excessive heat exposure caused 8,015 deaths in the U.S. according to the CDC. During that period, more people died from extreme heat than from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined.
Building on sustained collaboration between public health and weather and climate communities over the past several years NOAA is defining the demand for and capacity to use heat forecasts and related vulnerability and adaptation information. NOAA, led by CPO and in partnership with the National Weather Service and the Centers for Disease Control, is working to build a National Integrated Heat Health Information System to catalyze and connect the demand for, and foundational scientific understanding that underpins, climate services that build resilience to extreme heat.
This system will provide more advanced warnings and decision support services to help the public better prepare for, and respond to, extreme heat. This effort will identify and harmonize existing capabilities and define and deliver the research, observations, prediction, and vulnerability information and operational decision-support services needed to reduce health-related risk long before, during, and leading up to heat waves.
Heat information systems can be effective tools for reducing illness, death, and loss of productivity associated with heat waves.
A White House Initiative
As part of the nation's efforts to protect communities from the health impacts of climate change, in June 2015 President Barack Obama announced an initiative [fact sheet] to create a National Integrated Heat Health Information System. Working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are working to provide a suite of decision-support services that better serve public health needs to prepare and respond. This effort will identify and harmonize existing capabilities and define and deliver the research, observations, prediction, vulnerability assessments, and other information needed to support heat health preparedness.
What is a NIHHIS, and who are the partners?
NIHHIS is an integrated system that builds understanding of the problem of extreme heat, defines demand for climate services that enhance societal resilience, develops science-based products and services from a sustained climate science research program, and improves capacity, communication, and societal understanding of the problem in order to reduce morbidity and mortality due to extreme heat. The NIHHIS is a jointly developed system by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Heat Health Lead Juli Trtanj giving a presentation about climate and public health. 2014.
Define Demand: NOAA sustains engagement between weather, climate and public health communities to identify needs, develop solutions, and inform decisions. This function is supported by CDC's Climate and Health Program including Climate-Ready States & Cities Initiative grantees, and NOAA's RISAs (including CCRUN in NYC, CISA in the Carolinas, and CLIMAS in the Southwest), NOAA NCEI's Regional Climate Service Directors, and NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologists.
Improve Forecasts: NOAA works to improve current heat forecasts based on user need and to extend heat projections from weeks to months and beyond. This is accomplished through investments in National Weather Service supercomputing capacity which significantly improves the accuracy of weather forecasts, and by infusing CPO-supported climate science from NOAA's Climate Variability and Predictability (CVP) program, Modeling, Analysis, Predictions and Projections (MAPP) program into models at the National Weather Service and other operational entities.
Observe and Monitor: NOAA works to sustain observations that support improved understanding of the role of climate on extreme heat and enhance operational efforts. These observations span epidemiological surveillance by the CDC National Environmental Public Health Tracking Program and physical climate systems coordinated by several entities within NOAA, including the CPO Climate and Observations Division, the NWS Cooperative Observer Program, observations from Weather Forecast Offices, and OAR lab-based observations.
Understand and Communicate: NOAA enhances understanding of extreme heat events across time and spatial scales, builds capacity across climate and public health communities, and develops timely and accessible communication tools to inform preparedness and adaptation. This is done in collaboration with social scientists, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) BRACE grants, CDC's Environmental Public Health Tracking Network and Extreme Heat Media Toolkit the Climate Resilience Toolkit, NOAA's Regional Integrated Science and Assessments (RISA) program, the Coastal and Ocean Climate Applications (COCA) program, the National Weather Service Summer Weather Safety Campaigns, and the Global Framework for Climate Services.