Extreme climatic events and human biology and health: A primer and opportunities for future research

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Extreme climatic events are increasing in frequency, leading to hotter temperatures, flooding, droughts, severe storms, and rising oceans. This special issue brings together a collection of seven articles that describe the impacts of extreme climatic events on a diverse set of human biology and health outcomes. The first two articles cover extreme temperatures extending from extreme heat to cold and changes in winter weather and the respective implications for adverse health events, human environmental limits, well-being, and human adaptability. Next, two articles cover the effects of exposures to extreme storms through an examination of hurricanes and cyclones on stress and birth outcomes. The following two articles describe the effects of extreme flooding events on livelihoods, nutrition, water and food insecurity, diarrheal and respiratory health, and stress. The last article examines the effects of drought on diet and food insecurity. Following a brief review of each extreme climatic event and articles covered in this special issue, I discuss future research opportunities–highlighting domains of climate change and specific research questions that are ripe for biological anthropologists to investigate. I close with a description of interdisciplinary methods to assess climate exposures and human biology outcomes to aid the investigation of the defining question of our time – how climate change will affect human biology and health. Ultimately, climate change is a water, food, and health problem. Human biologists offer a unique perspective for a combination of theoretical, methodological, and applied reasons and thus are in a prime position to contribute to this critical research agenda.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere23843
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anatomy
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology
  • Genetics


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