We examined the variation in association between high temperatures and elderly mortality (age ≥ 75 years) from year to year in 83 US cities between 1987 and 2000. We used a Poisson regression model and decomposed the mortality risk for high temperatures into: a main effect due to high temperatures using lagged non-linear function, and an added effect due to consecutive high temperature days. We pooled yearly effects across both regional and national levels. The high temperature effects (both main and added effects) on elderly mortality varied greatly from year to year. In every city there was at least one year where higher temperatures were associated with lower mortality. Years with relatively high heat-related mortality were often followed by years with relatively low mortality. These year to year changes have important consequences for heat-warning systems and for predictions of heat-related mortality due to climate change.