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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2016, 13(2), 206; doi:10.3390/ijerph13020206

Evaluation of an Early-Warning System for Heat Wave-Related Mortality in Europe: Implications for Sub-seasonal to Seasonal Forecasting and Climate Services

1
Catalan Institute of Climate Sciences (IC3), Carrer Doctor Trueta, 203, 3a, 08005 Barcelona, Spain
2
World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe, European Centre for Environment and Health, Platz der Vereinten Nationen 1, 53113 Bonn, Germany
3
National Institute of Health and Medical Research, INSERM U988 and U1198, University of Montpelier, Building 24, Place Eugène Bataillon-CC105, 34095 Montpellier, Cedex 05, France
4
Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, 75014 Paris, France
5
Division of Geriatrics, Department of Internal Medicine, Rehabilitation and Geriatrics, Geneva University Hospitals, University of Geneva, Chemin du., Pont-Bochet, 1226 Thônex, Switzerland
6
Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA), Passeig de Lluís Companys, 23, 08010 Barcelona, Spain
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 30 November 2015 / Accepted: 1 February 2016 / Published: 6 February 2016
(This article belongs to the Collection Climate Change and Human Health)
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Abstract

Heat waves have been responsible for more fatalities in Europe over the past decades than any other extreme weather event. However, temperature-related illnesses and deaths are largely preventable. Reliable sub-seasonal-to-seasonal (S2S) climate forecasts of extreme temperatures could allow for better short-to-medium-term resource management within heat-health action plans, to protect vulnerable populations and ensure access to preventive measures well in advance. The objective of this study is to assess the extent to which S2S climate forecasts could be incorporated into heat-health action plans, to support timely public health decision-making ahead of imminent heat wave events in Europe. Forecasts of apparent temperature at different lead times (e.g., 1 day, 4 days, 8 days, up to 3 months) were used in a mortality model to produce probabilistic mortality forecasts up to several months ahead of the 2003 heat wave event in Europe. Results were compared to mortality predictions, inferred using observed apparent temperature data in the mortality model. In general, we found a decreasing transition in skill between excellent predictions when using observed temperature, to predictions with no skill when using forecast temperature with lead times greater than one week. However, even at lead-times up to three months, there were some regions in Spain and the United Kingdom where excess mortality was detected with some certainty. This suggests that in some areas of Europe, there is potential for S2S climate forecasts to be incorporated in localised heat–health action plans. In general, these results show that the performance of this climate service framework is not limited by the mortality model itself, but rather by the predictability of the climate variables, at S2S time scales, over Europe. View Full-Text
Keywords: temperature; extremes; heat wave; mortality model; early warning system; climate services temperature; extremes; heat wave; mortality model; early warning system; climate services
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Lowe, R.; García-Díez, M.; Ballester, J.; Creswick, J.; Robine, J.-M.; Herrmann, F.R.; Rodó, X. Evaluation of an Early-Warning System for Heat Wave-Related Mortality in Europe: Implications for Sub-seasonal to Seasonal Forecasting and Climate Services. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2016, 13, 206.

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