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Can the Excess Heat Factor Indicate Heatwave-Related Morbidity? A Case Study in Adelaide, South Australia

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Although heatwave-related excess mortality and morbidity have been widely studied, results are not comparable spatially and often longitudinally because of different heatwave definitions applied. The excess heat factor (EHF) quantifies heatwave intensity relative to the local climate, enabling cross-regional comparisons. Previous studies have shown a strong relationship between EHFs and daily mortality during severe heatwaves. An extensive study about the relationship between EHFs and daily morbidity compared to the currently applied heatwave thresholds in Adelaide has not yet been undertaken. This paper analyzes the association of EHFs with daily morbidity between 2008 and 2014 in the Adelaide metropolitan region, South Australia, and probes three different approaches to calculate the EHF. The EHF is found to differentiate days with heatwave-related excess morbidity significantly better than other widely used weather parameters, resulting in fewer days per year with heatwave alerts than using previously proposed methods. The volume of excess morbidity can be predicted by the EHF more reliably with a model proposed for the SA Ambulance Service to support their heatwave preparation plan.

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This study was supported by a grant from the Cooperative Research Centre for Low Carbon Living as part of the project, called Urban Micro Climates: Comparative Study of Major Contributors to the Urban Heat Island (UHI) in three Australian cities; Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide.

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The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Gertrud Hatvani-Kovacs.

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Hatvani-Kovacs, G., Belusko, M., Pockett, J. et al. Can the Excess Heat Factor Indicate Heatwave-Related Morbidity? A Case Study in Adelaide, South Australia. EcoHealth 13, 100–110 (2016).

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