Nav: Home

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:

The black forest and climate change
Silver and Douglas firs could replace Norway spruce in the long run due to their greater resistance to droughts.
For some US counties, climate change will be particularly costly
A highly granular assessment of the impacts of climate change on the US economy suggests that each 1°Celsius increase in temperature will cost 1.2 percent of the country's gross domestic product, on average.
Climate change label leads to climate science acceptance
A new Cornell University study finds that labels matter when it comes to acceptance of climate science.
Was that climate change?
A new four-step 'framework' aims to test the contribution of climate change to record-setting extreme weather events.
It's more than just climate change
Accurately modeling climate change and interactive human factors -- including inequality, consumption, and population -- is essential for the effective science-based policies and measures needed to benefit and sustain current and future generations.
More Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans
More than test scores or good grades — what do kids need to prepare them for the future? This hour, guest host Manoush Zomorodi and TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, in and out of the classroom. Guests include educators Olympia Della Flora and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#534 Bacteria are Coming for Your OJ
What makes breakfast, breakfast? Well, according to every movie and TV show we've ever seen, a big glass of orange juice is basically required. But our morning grapefruit might be in danger. Why? Citrus greening, a bacteria carried by a bug, has infected 90% of the citrus groves in Florida. It's coming for your OJ. We'll talk with University of Maryland plant virologist Anne Simon about ways to stop the citrus killer, and with science writer and journalist Maryn McKenna about why throwing antibiotics at the problem is probably not the solution. Related links: A Review of the Citrus Greening...