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Estimating heat wave-related mortality in Europe using singular spectrum analysis


Estimating the impact of heat waves on human mortality is key when it comes to the design of effective climate change adaptation measures. As the usual approach—relying on detailed health data in form of hospital records—is not feasible for many countries, a different methodology is needed. This work presents such an approach. Based on singular spectrum analysis and using monthly mortality rates—partly ranging back to 1960—it derives excess mortality estimates for 27 European countries. Excess mortality is then regressed against a heat wave measure in order to assess the health impacts of extreme heat. The analysis demonstrates that many European countries are severely affected by heat waves: On average, 0.61%—and up to 1.14% in case of Portugal—of all deaths are caused by extreme heat events. This finding confirms the understanding that climate change is a major environmental risk to public health: In the 27 examined European countries, over 28,000 people die every year due to exposure to extreme heat.

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I would like to thank my advisor, Douglas G. Martinson, for invaluable feedback and two anonymous reviewers for tremendously helpful suggestions. I further would like to acknowledge the providers of the used data: Haylock et al. (2008) – E-OBS 12.0 dataset from the EU-FP6 project ENSEMBLES ( and the data providers in the ECA&D project ( Eurostat and EFGS (2011) – GEOSTAT 2011 V2 from Eurostat ( and the European Forum for GeoStatistics ( Eurostat (2015) – mortality and population statistics from Eurostat (

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Correspondence to Steffen Merte.

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Merte, S. Estimating heat wave-related mortality in Europe using singular spectrum analysis. Climatic Change 142, 321–330 (2017).

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  • Heat Wave
  • Excess Mortality
  • Extreme Heat
  • Singular Spectrum Analysis
  • Human Mortality