The danger of heat and cold across Australia

September 10, 2019

Cold temperatures are not nearly as deadly as heat, with around 2% of all deaths in Australia related to heat, according to new research from the University of Technology Sydney.

The study, published today in the journal Climatic Change, reveals that in warmer regions of Australia up to 9% of deaths were related to heat, with the elderly facing the greatest risk.

Cold weather had a much smaller impact (-0.4% nationwide) except in the coldest climate zone, where 3.6% of deaths could be linked to cold temperatures.

"Accurately measuring temperature-related mortality is an important step towards understanding the impacts of climate change, particularly across different climate zones," says study author Dr Thomas Longden, from the UTS Centre for Health Economics Research and Evaluation.

The study is the first to use a national data set of mortality records to calculate the number of deaths linked to heat and cold in Australia. A key part of the analysis was estimating temperature-related deaths across six climate zones.

The climate zones range from areas with hot, humid summers in Northern Australia, to areas with mild summers and cold winters in Tasmania, ACT and parts of NSW and Victoria.

Regions with warm, humid summers, including Brisbane, Coffs Harbour and the Gold Coast, had the highest proportion of deaths linked to heat (9.1%).

The coldest climate zone, which encompasses Tasmania and the NSW and Victorian alpine regions, saw 3.6% of deaths attributed to cold temperatures and a 3.3% reduction in deaths during warmer months.

The study also revealed that in some regions, particularly those with warm, humid summers, colder temperatures actually reduced deaths in comparison to the median temperature.

"While the cold is more dangerous in the colder climate zones, in four of the six regions, there was a decrease in deaths during colder weather. This is because most of the cold days in warmer climate zones are quite moderate," says Dr Longden.

Previous studies that used data for Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane have suggested that despite increasing temperatures due to climate change, there would be a net reduction in temperature-related deaths due to the reduction in cold-related deaths.

However, this study reveals that nationwide there would be a net cost from climate change, as increased heat-related deaths would not be offset by a reduction in cold-related deaths in most climate zones.

"Whether an increase in heat-related mortality is offset by a reduction in cold-related mortality is crucial to finding a net benefit or cost from climate change when using temperature-mortality relationships," Dr Longden says.

"The main differences between the earlier studies and this one is the use of a national mortality data set, which allows for the analysis of differences between climate zones, and the reference temperature used to measure the relative risk of mortality," says Dr Longden.
-end-


University of Technology Sydney

Related Climate Change Articles from Brightsurf:

Are climate scientists being too cautious when linking extreme weather to climate change?
Climate science has focused on avoiding false alarms when linking extreme events to climate change.

Mysterious climate change
New research findings underline the crucial role that sea ice throughout the Southern Ocean played for atmospheric CO2 in times of rapid climate change in the past.

Mapping the path of climate change
Predicting a major transition, such as climate change, is extremely difficult, but the probabilistic framework developed by the authors is the first step in identifying the path between a shift in two environmental states.

Small change for climate change: Time to increase research funding to save the world
A new study shows that there is a huge disproportion in the level of funding for social science research into the greatest challenge in combating global warming -- how to get individuals and societies to overcome ingrained human habits to make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change.

Sub-national 'climate clubs' could offer key to combating climate change
'Climate clubs' offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally harmonized climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.

Review of Chinese atmospheric science research over the past 70 years: Climate and climate change
Over the past 70 years since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, Chinese scientists have made great contributions to various fields in the research of atmospheric sciences, which attracted worldwide attention.

A CERN for climate change
In a Perspective article appearing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tim Palmer (Oxford University), and Bjorn Stevens (Max Planck Society), critically reflect on the present state of Earth system modelling.

Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).

Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.

Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.

Read More: Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.