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Climate Change»Extreme Heat Waves

»Thursday, June 11,2009

Many of us have enjoyed the weather of late, but there switch from hot to cold certainly seems to be on the increase. The Met office is aware of this, and believes it is a sign of dangerous times to come.The number of heat-related deaths we see could increase by up to 17 times by 2080, because of the increase in heatwaves, as a result of climate change.

In London alone there could be a five-fold increase on the current death rate of 1.8 per 100,000, soaring to 10.7 per 100,000 by 2080. Other European cities could be hit even harder — Budapest death rates could increase more than 17 times from 5.4 per 100,000 to 93 per 100,000.

These figures, revealed from a study based on Met Office science, are far higher than previous estimates. Using Met Office projections of future climate, Simon Gosling, of the Walker Institute for Climate System Research at the University of Reading, has predicted how heat-related deaths would be affected in Boston, Budapest, Dallas, Lisbon, London and Sydney.

The results agreed with previous studies — that the heat-related mortality rate is expected to dramatically rise in the majority of big cities because of climate change. But figures also revealed a far higher mortality rate for many places than previously thought. Earlier estimates for the heat-related death rate in Budapest, for example, had been about 56 per 100,000, but the new method showed it could be more like 93 per 100,000.

In some areas the study found that previous figures had been overestimated — in Dallas, using temperature rise only, the rate was forecast to leap from 1.4 to 37.2 per 100,000 by 2080. The new study showed the increase would be 32.3 per 100,000.

Simon Gosling explains: "Climate change will affect both average temperatures and the variability of the weather, so we can expect to see changes in the frequency of very hot or very cold days. Previous estimates of heat-related deaths in the future have only considered changes in average temperature, but our study used a new method which took both variability and temperature increase into account. This gives us a more complete picture of how heat-related mortality will be affected by the changing climate."

The results from this new methodology will be useful for assessing the future impacts of climate change and helping governments make decisions on how to begin adapting to the threats to human health.
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