Jul 8, 2016

Attributing human mortality during extreme heat waves to anthropogenic climate change

Daniel Mitchell, Clare Heaviside, Sotiris Vardoulakis, Chris Huntingford, Giacomo Masato, Benoit P Guillod, Peter Frumhoff, Andy Bowery, David Wallom, Myles Allen
Environmental Research Letters

Here, for the first time, we explicitly quantify the role of human activity on climate and heat-related mortality in an event attribution framework, analysing both the Europe-wide temperature response in 2003, and localised responses over London and Paris.

Study abstract

  • Uses publicly-donated computing and performs many thousands of climate simulations of a high-resolution regional climate model
  • Simulations generated a comprehensive statistical description of the 2003 event and the role of human influence within it
  • Uses the results as an input to ao health impact assessment model of human mortality
  • Finds large-scale dynamical modes of atmospheric variability remain largely unchanged under anthropogenic climate change, and hence the direct thermodynamical response is mainly responsible for the increased mortality
  • Finds that in the summer of 2003, anthropogenic climate change increased the risk of heat-related mortality in Central Paris by ~70% and by ~20% in London, which experienced lower extreme heat
  • Finds that out of the estimated ~315 and ~735 summer deaths attributed to the heatwave event in Greater London and Central Paris, respectively, 64 (±3) deaths were attributable to anthropogenic climate change in London, and 506 (±51) in Paris
  • States that such an ability to robustly attribute specific damages to anthropogenic drivers of increased extreme heat can inform societal responses to, and responsibilities for, climate change