Climate Change and Mortality in Vienna—A Human Biometeorological Analysis Based on Regional Climate Modeling

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Summer in Vienna. Original image.

Stefan Muthers, Andreas Matzarakis (Meteorological Institute, University of Freiburg)  and Elisabeth Koch (Austrian Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics) have published a new paper titled “Climate Change and Mortality in Vienna—A Human Biometeorological Analysis Based on Regional Climate Modeling.”  The abstract to this paper:  The potential development of heat-related mortality in the 21th century for Vienna (Austria) was assessed by the use of two regional climate models based on the IPCC emissions scenarios A1B and B1. Heat stress was described with the human-biometeorological index PET (Physiologically Equivalent Temperature). Based on the relation between heat stress and mortality in 1970–2007, we developed two approaches to estimate the increases with and without long-term adaptation. Until 2011–2040 no significant changes will take place compared to 1970–2000, but in the following decades heat-related mortality could increase up to 129% until the end of the century, if no adaptation takes place. The strongest increase occurred due to extreme heat stress (PET ≥ 41 °C). With long-term adaptation the increase is less pronounced, but still notable. This encourages the requirement for additional adaptation measurements.

The introduction to this useful analysis reads:

The high number of heat-related deaths during the summer of 2003, in combination with the probability of an increase of heat wave frequency and duration due to climate change creates the need to assess the future development of heat-related mortality.

The health impact of summer 2003 in Vienna (Austria) was not as severe as in other Western-European countries. In Barcelona (Spain) more than 500 additional people died during the extraordinary conditions of this summer and in Paris (France), where the center of the August heat wave was located, more than 300 people died between the 2nd and 12th of August, 2003.

During the summer around 180 deaths were attributable to heat stress in Vienna. In twelve European countries, about 80,000 additional deaths were recorded during the summer. The human body is affected by the thermal environment, which is influenced by many different factors. For heat stress, not only the air temperature, but also the water vapor pressure of the surrounding air, which affects our ability to cool down the body through transpiration, is of importance. Additionally, wind speed can reduce the thermal stress conditions and different radiation fluxes can modify the thermal perception largely. On account for this, an analysis of the relation between heat stress and mortality should include other meteorological parameters besides the air temperature.

In addition to the meteorological conditions, physiological parameters of the human body are also relevant. The activity levels affect the internal heat production and the thermoregulation is influenced by different factors e.g., age. Moreover, humans are able to adapt by behavioral measurements, e.g., by their choice of clothing.

Human-biometeorological indexes enable to include all the important factors in the assessment of the thermal conditions. Here, we apply the Physiologically Equivalent Temperature (PET).

The aim of this paper is to analyze the impact of climate change on heat-related mortality. The manuscript is structured as follows: First we present the used data and methods to analyze the relationship between climate and mortality during the past and for the future. Then the results for the past and the possible development in the 21th century, based on regional climate simulation, are presented.

Read the full article in PDF format by clicking here.

Citation: Muthers, S.; Matzarakis, A.; Koch, E. Climate Change and Mortality in Vienna—A Human Biometeorological Analysis Based on Regional Climate Modeling. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2010, 7, 2965-2977

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