According to scientists, severe heat waves in the summer of 2022 caused the deaths of at least 70,000 people.
That’s more than 10 percent more than previous estimates suggested.
Scientists at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health have increased the estimated death toll for the 2022 heatwave from 62,862 to 70,066.
With the number of heat-related deaths in the UK estimated at 3,496, a 10.28 per cent increase would bring the actual number to 3,855 summer deaths.
The data also shows that the summer of 2022 was exceptionally deadly, with deaths nearly doubling every year between 1998 and 2004.
A new study finds that estimates of heat-related deaths in 2022 were 10 percent lower than reality, as the new figure stands at 70,000 across Europe
With the number of heat-related deaths in the UK estimated at 3,496, a 10.28 per cent increase would bring the actual number to 3,855 summer deaths. Pictured: Bournemouth beach in June 2022
To calculate excess deaths caused by heat, researchers applied an epidemiological model to temperature and mortality data.
By comparing the increase in deaths with the intensity of the heat, scientists were able to come up with reasonably accurate numbers for the number of excess deaths caused by temperature spikes.
A previous study of weekly temperature data found that an unusually hot month from mid-July to mid-August was responsible for 38,881 deaths in Europe.
In just one week between July 18 and 24, when temperatures were at their highest, scientists estimate there were 11,637 heat-related deaths.
However, this new research shows that aggregate data such as weekly figures can underestimate the number of heat-related deaths.
Lead researcher Joan Ballester Claramunt says the longer the data is aggregated, the more the results underestimate the total number of deaths.
“In general,” says Mr. Claramunt, “we do not find models based on monthly aggregated data useful for estimating the short-term effects of ambient temperatures.”
The summer of 2022 was the hottest and deadliest summer in Britain on record. A brief heatwave caused temperatures to reach unprecedented highs of over 40°C (104°F).
Maximum temperatures in the UK peaked between July and August, at the same time as there was a significant increase in heat-related deaths across Europe
Between 1998 and 2004, models that used weekly temperature data underestimated the number of heat-related deaths by 21.56 percent each year.
When the researchers compared the estimates for Spain with weekly or daily data, they also found that heat-related deaths in 2022 were underestimated by six percent.
However, Mr Claramunt points out that the difference between estimates tends to be smaller when heat spikes are most extreme.
“It is important to note that the differences were very small during periods of extreme cold and heat, such as in the summer of 2003, when the underestimation by the weekly data model was only 4.62%,” explains Mr. Claramunt.
Firefighters work to contain a blaze in Belin-Beliet as wildfires spread across the Gironde region of southwestern France in August 2022
Temperatures have risen steadily in the UK over the past four decades, increasing the risk of heat-related deaths in the summer months
Last summer was the hottest and deadliest ever recorded in Britain, as temperatures reached highs of over 40°C (104°F) for the first time ever.
The Met Office reported that 2022 was an extreme outlier in a 250-year data series as the country was hit by a “brief but unprecedented heatwave”.
Temperatures of up to 102°F (39°C) were recorded as far away as North Yorkshire as records were broken for maximum and daily minimum temperatures across the country.
Worryingly, experts noted that unlike the heatwaves of 2003, the extreme weather in 2022 could not be considered exceptional and was in line with current trends.
The study’s author, Mr. Claramunt, said at the time: “The temperatures measured in the summer of 2022 cannot be considered exceptional since they could have been predicted based on the temperature series of previous years and show that warming has accelerated over the last decade .’
Recent research has found that while the impacts of some extreme weather events are “overestimated”, the link between climate change and heatwaves is supported by clear evidence.
Heatwaves are becoming increasingly likely and intense around the world, with human-caused climate change being the most likely cause.
In general, a heat wave that once had a 1 in 10 chance of occurring is now almost three times as likely and peaks at temperatures about 1 degree Celsius higher than would have been the case without climate change.
What are the best ways to stay cool during a heat wave?
The NHS has a number of tips on how to keep cool in unusually hot weather.
– Drink enough fluids
– Open windows or other ventilation openings in the house
– Shade or cover windows exposed to direct sunlight
– Plant plants indoors and outdoors to provide shade and cool the air
– Turn off lights and electrical devices when not in use
– Take a break if your home gets too hot: go to a nearby, air-conditioned building, such as a library or supermarket