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Heat stress and mortality in Lisbon Part II. An assessment of the potential impacts of climate change

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Global environmental change, in particular climate change, will have adverse effects on public health. The increased frequency/intensity of heat waves is expected to increase heat-related mortality and illness. To quantify the climatic risks of heat-related mortality in Lisbon an empirical-statistical model was developed in Part I, based on the climate-mortality relationship of the summer months of 1980–1998. In Part II, scenarios of climate and population change are applied to the model to assess the potential impacts on public health in the 2020s and 2050s, in terms of crude heat-related mortality rates. Two regional climate models (RCMs) were used and different assumptions about seasonality, acclimatisation and the estimation of excess deaths were made in order to represent uncertainty explicitly. An exploratory Bayesian analysis was used to investigate the sensitivity of the result to input assumptions. Annual heat-related death rates are estimated to increase from between 5.4 and 6 (per 100,000) for 1980–1998 to between 5.8 and 15.1 for the 2020s. By the 2050s, the potential increase ranges from 7.3 to 35.6. The burden of deaths is decreased if acclimatisation is factored in. Through a Bayesian analysis it is shown that, for the tested variables, future heat-related mortality is most sensitive to the choice of RCM and least to the method of calculating the excess deaths.

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Part of this work was commissioned by the SIAM (Scenarios, Impacts and Adaptation Measures to climate change in Portugal) Project, which was funded by the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian and the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT). The writing-up of this paper was supported by a grant (SFRH/BD/4901/2001) from FCT. Henrique Oliveira Pires and Fátima Espírito Santo of the Instituto de Meteorologia are thanked for supplying the baseline data. The HadRM2 data were supplied by the Climate Impacts LINK Project (DETR Contract EPG 1/1/68) on behalf of the Hadley Centre and U.K. Meteorological Office. Manuel Castro supplied the PROMES data to the SIAM Project. Mike Hulme and Xianfu Lu provided extensive advice on the usage of climate scenarios and Mike Hulme also advised on the drafting of the paper. I am particularly grateful to Elsa Casimiro and Filipe Duarte Santos for their encouragement and support throughout the project.

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Correspondence to Suraje Dessai.

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Dessai, S. Heat stress and mortality in Lisbon Part II. An assessment of the potential impacts of climate change. Int J Biometeorol 48, 37–44 (2003).

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