Background: High ambient summer temperatures have been shown to influence daily mortality in cities across Europe. Quantification of the population mortality burden attributable to heat is crucial to the development of adaptive approaches. We evaluated the impact of summer heat on mortality for 15 European cities during the 1990s, under hypothetical temperature scenarios warmer and cooler than the mean and under future scenarios derived from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on Emission Scenarios (SRES).
Methods: We used a Monte Carlo approach to estimate the number of deaths attributable to heat for each city. These estimates rely on the results of a Bayesian random effects meta-analysis which combines city-specific heat-mortality functions.
Results: The number of heat-attributable deaths per summer ranged from 0 in Dublin to 423 in Paris. The mean attributable fraction of deaths was around 2%. The highest impact was in three Mediterranean cities (Barcelona, Rome and Valencia) and in two continental cities (Paris and Budapest). The largest impact was on persons over 75 years, but in some cities important proportions of heat-attributable deaths were also found for younger adults. Heat-attributable deaths increased markedly under the warming scenarios. The impact under the SRES scenarios was slightly lower or comparable to the impact during the observed hottest year.
Conclusions: Current high summer ambient temperatures have an important impact on European populations health. This impact is expected to increase in future, according to the projected increase of mean ambient temperatures and frequency and duration of heat waves.