This April 11, 2019 article on National Geographic about lost hikers and survival rates states (emphasis added):

In Herrington’s wilderness survival courses, he teaches day hikers to pack a puffy jacket for warmth, and a 55-gallon trash bag for rain protection/shelter. Even in warm states. “If you’re wet—because it rains or you fell into water or you sweated through your clothes—and its 65 degrees, you can still get hypothermic,” says Herrington. “Texas is one of the leading states in hypothermia deaths, and look how warm it is there.” An injury compounds the risk of hypothermia by compromising the body’s ability to thermo-regulate.

Is Texas, a relatively warm state, one of the leading states in hypothermia deaths?

I have been able to find this image from the Washington Post.

enter image description here

However, the image shades Texas a very light blue (almost white), instead of a dark blue, as is expected for a leading state in hypothermia (e.g. cold-related) deaths.

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    absolute vs relative numbers? Commented Apr 14, 2019 at 5:57
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    I'm more curious why DC is so high. It beats Wisconsin, Maine, and Minnesota. Commented Apr 15, 2019 at 18:35
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    @eyeballfrog I assume it's homeless people in the winter. Overcrowded shelters are a common news story in the winter. Add a relatively small population and you've got a pretty high rate.
    – pboss3010
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 13:14
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    Not an answer, but indirect supporting evidence where the claim may come from: in Europe, the countries with the highest rates of excess winter deaths are the countries with the mildest winters. It may be that the claimant is confusing excess winter deaths (which are largely due to poorly insulated homes and typically higher in countries which normally have mild winters) with hypothermia-related deaths (which tend to happen outdoors and be much lower than excess winter deaths). Maybe this applies between US states as well?
    – gerrit
    Commented Apr 17, 2019 at 8:43
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    The original article seems to have been edited and now says "New Mexico is one of the leading states in hypothermia deaths, and look how warm it is there." (which seems to better match the image in the post)
    – user53923
    Commented Apr 17, 2019 at 10:37

1 Answer 1


My answer rests on publications by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Apparently, the Washington Post also uses CDC numbers, even though I couldn't find the data set that they used to produce the figure.

Before I get into details, just a word about the fact that Texas is one of the warmest states in the USA. If you look at average annual temperatures, Texas ranks fourth after Florida, Hawaii, and Louisiana. However, there are notable regional differences. During winters, cities such as Lubbock and Amarillo experience temperatures well below 0°C quite regularly. So, despite the high annual average temperature, regional conditions in Texas are varied enough that death by hypothermia is certainly possible.

There is a somewhat old, but very useful CDC report from 1998 that contains a detailed table with hypothermia death rates for all states in the US. The table lists the crude death rates per 100,000 population. It also shows an age-adjusted death rate that takes into account that hypothermia is prevalent among older people (according to the report, almost half of the deaths were persons older than 64 years).

Crude and adjusted rates of hypothermia-related deaths, by state – United States, 1979–1995

Texas has a crude rate of 0.1, the same as California and Florida. Only Hawaii has a lower crude rate (probably, there were no recorded cases of hypothermia in that state during that time period).

Of course, Texas has one of the largest populations of all states. It is not impossible that in absolute numbers, the number of deaths was higher than in other states with high crude rates but small populations. This doesn't appear to be very likely, though, as there are other relatively large states with higher crude rates than Texas, e.g. New York (0.2), Pennsylvania (0.3), and Illinois (0.4). These states have smaller populations, but not so small that it seems probable that the absolute figure for Texas was really higher than that for these states.

Subsequent reports by the CDC do not seem to indicate a notable change with regard to the position of Texas. While there seems to be a significant increase of hypothermia-related deaths in the long term, there is no reason to assume that this increase caused Texas in particular to take the lead with regard to deaths caused by extreme cold. In 2006, the CDC published a figure that looks already very similar to the one that you link from the Washington Post. As in the Washington Post figure, Texas has the shade indicating the lowest hypothermia-related deaths. It is noteworthy that other states with relatively large populations like Pennsylvania have a clearly higher rate.

Average annual rate per 100,000 population of hypothermia-related deaths, by state – United States, 1999–2002.

So, to summarize: if differences in population are taken into account, there is no reason to assume that Texas is "one of the leading states of hypothermia deaths". Due to its large population, the absolute number of hypothermia deaths may be larger for Texas than in states with a higher death rate, even if there will be states (e.g. Pennsylvania) with equally large or larger absolute numbers. Yet, basing the claim on absolute numbers would clearly be misleading.


  1. CDC. 1998. Hypothermia-related deaths – Georgia, January 1996–December 1997 and United States, 1979–1995. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 47(48). 1037–1040. PDF
  2. CDC. 2006. Hypothermia-Related Deaths – United States, 1999–2002 and 2005. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 55(10). 282–284. PDF
  3. Meiman, J., H. Anderson, and C. Tomasello. 2015. Hypothermia-related deaths – Wisconsin, 2014, and United States, 2003–2013. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 64(6). 141–143. PDF
  • Good answer, I have a more recent and comprehensive answer in mind :) Want to see it? Commented Apr 14, 2019 at 7:45
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    @BarryHarrison: Are we playing games here? Judging from your comments, you almost seem to be excited to post an answer that's already prepared on your computer. If so, please save others wasting their time researching for an answer for your question (too late for me though).
    – Schmuddi
    Commented Apr 14, 2019 at 7:50
  • No, I want to get an answer, just like you I would guess. I think you are misreading my above comment. I just meant that I can think of a more recent source. I'm posting an answer only if nobody does. Have an upvote :) Commented Apr 14, 2019 at 7:55
  • Before I accept, would you like to add a very short blurb on temperature? You don't have to, just that it might make the answer more complete. Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 7:43
  • @BarryHarrison: I've added a paragraph on temperatures.
    – Schmuddi
    Commented Apr 17, 2019 at 11:23

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