Heatwaves Kill: New Study Reveals Shocking Mortality Rates Across the Globe

Global Heat Analysis

A Monash University study found heatwaves caused over 153,000 additional deaths per season from 1990 to 2019, with Asia most affected. The research, spanning 43 countries, revealed a significant rise in heatwave-related deaths, particularly in Europe and high-income areas, emphasizing the need for localized climate adaptation strategies. Credit: SciTechDaily.com

First study to globally map heatwave-related mortality finds 153,000+ heatwave-related deaths per season globally from 1990-2019, with Asia hardest hit.

A Monash-led study – the first to globally map heatwave-related mortality over a three-decade period from 1990 to 2019 – has found that an additional 153,000+ deaths per warm season were associated with heatwaves, with nearly half of those deaths in Asia.

In comparison to 1850–1990, the global surface temperature has increased by 1.14℃ in 2013–2022 and is expected to increase by another 0.41-3.41℃ by 2081–2100. With the increasing impacts of climate change, heat waves are increasing not only in frequency but also in severity and magnitude.

The study, published today in PLOS Medicine and led by Monash University’s Professor Yuming Guo, looked at data on daily deaths and temperature from 750 locations in 43 countries or regions.

The study – done in collaboration with Shandong University in China, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in UK, and universities/research institutes from other countries- found that, from 1990–2019, heatwaves led to an increase in deaths of 236 deaths per ten million residents per warm season of a year. The regions with the highest heatwave-related deaths were in:

  • Southern and Eastern Europe
  • areas that had polar and alpine climates
  • where residents had high incomes

Locations with tropical climates or low incomes were observed with the greatest decline in heatwave-related mortality burden from 1990 to 2019.

According to Professor Guo, studies so far looking at increased deaths related to exposure to heatwaves has been studied, “the evidence mainly comes from limited locations,” he said.

“Our findings that heatwaves are associated with substantial mortality burden that varies spatiotemporally over the globe in the past 30 years suggest that there should be localized adaptation planning and risk management across all government levels.”

According to the study’s authors, heat waves cause an increased risk of death due to overwhelming thermal stress on the human body and triggering dysfunction of multiple organs as well as heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heatstroke. Heat stress can also aggravate pre-existing chronic conditions, leading to premature death, psychiatric disorders, and other outcomes.

For more on this research, see Heatwaves Responsible for 150,000 Deaths Annually.

Reference: “Global, regional, and national burden of heatwave-related mortality from 1990 to 2019: A three-stage modelling study” by Qi Zhao, Shanshan Li, Tingting Ye, Yao Wu, Antonio Gasparrini, Shilu Tong, Aleš Urban, Ana Maria Vicedo-Cabrera, Aurelio Tobias, Ben Armstrong, Dominic Royé, Eric Lavigne, Francesca de’Donato, Francesco Sera, Haidong Kan, Joel Schwartz, Mathilde Pascal, Niilo Ryti, Patrick Goodman, Paulo Hilario Nascimento Saldiva, Michelle L. Bell, Yuming Guo and on behalf of the MCC Collaborative Research Network, 14 May 2024, PLOS Medicine.
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1004364

1 Comment on "Heatwaves Kill: New Study Reveals Shocking Mortality Rates Across the Globe"

  1. Clyde Spencer | May 25, 2024 at 11:54 am | Reply

    I found no mention of death certificates being examined to determine cause of death for the study period. It appears that both the defined heat waves and excess deaths from heat are calculated from problematic models rather than using empirical data. I have provided evidence that heat waves are NOT increasing in the conterminous USA: https://wattsupwiththat.com/2019/09/06/the-gestalt-of-heat-waves/

    The decline in excess deaths in tropical regions, and increase in high-income areas is counterintuitive and should be a red-flag that there is something amiss in the study.

    Be that as it may, another concern is that temperature alone is less predictive of distress for human bodies than is the Heat Index, which takes into account the humidity. With adequate water, humans can survive surprisingly high temperatures. However, when evaporative cooling from sweat declines or ceases because of high humidity, the body quickly becomes distressed because the core temperature rises. Their study report doesn’t mention Heat Index being considered in their temperature model.

    It seems to me that Monash University is a prolific producer of low-quality research that consistently supports the meme of the danger of anthropogenic warming. However, it is easy to rationalize a belief system if one relies on ‘facts’ that are wrong.

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