The influence of future climate change on the occurrence of heat waves and its implications for heat wave-related mortality due to ischemic heart diseases (IHD) in Germany is studied. Simulations of 19 regional climate models with a spatial resolution of 0.25° × 0.25° forced by the moderate climate change scenario A1B are analyzed. Three model time periods of 30 years are evaluated, representing present climate (1971–2000), near future climate (2021–2050), and remote future climate (2069–2098). Heat waves are defined as periods of at least three consecutive days with daily mean air temperature above the 97.5th percentile of the all-season temperature distribution. Based on the model simulations, future heat waves in Germany will be significantly more frequent, longer lasting and more intense. By the end of the 21st century, the number of heat waves will be tripled compared to present climate. Additionally, the average duration of heat waves will increase by 25%, accompanied by an increase of the average temperature during heat waves by about 1 K. Regional analyses show that stronger than average climate change effects are observed particularly in the southern regions of Germany. Furthermore, we investigated climate change impacts on IHD mortality in Germany applying temperature projections from 19 regional climate models to heat wave mortality relationships identified in a previous study. Future IHD excess deaths were calculated both in the absence and presence of some acclimatization (i.e.
, that people are able to physiologically acclimatize to enhanced temperature levels in the future time periods by 0% and 50%, respectively). In addition to changes in heat wave frequency, we incorporated also changes in heat wave intensity and duration into the future mortality evaluations. The results indicate that by the end of the 21st century the annual number of IHD excess deaths in Germany attributable to heat waves is expected to rise by factor 2.4 and 5.1 in the acclimatization and non-acclimatization approach, respectively. Even though there is substantial variability across the individual model simulations, it is most likely that the future burden of heat will increase considerably. The obtained results point to public health interventions to reduce the vulnerability of the population to heat waves.
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