Climate Change Increased Number of Deaths in Sweden: Extreme Weather to Blame

First Posted: Oct 23, 2013 08:05 AM EDT

Could climate change increase the number of deaths? It turns out it just might. Scientists have discovered that the increased temperatures associated with climate change in Stockholm, Sweden between 1980 and 2009 caused 300 more premature deaths than if the temperature increase did not take place. The findings reveal the danger that continues to rise in the face of our shifting climate.

Global warming doesn't just cause a general increase in temperature. It also increases the frequency, intensity and duration of heat waves. Although previous studies have shown that these shifts are associated with increased mortality, they have also speculated that mortality associated with extreme cold could decrease as a result of a warmer climate. In order to see whether or not mortality was going up or down, though, the researchers decided to investigate a bit further.

The scientists turned to Stockholm for their study. They examined the period between 1980 and 2009 in order to examine mortality associated with extreme temperatures. More specifically, they compared temperature data from this period with the corresponding data for the period 1900 to 1929.

In the end they found that the number of periods of extremely high temperatures increased significantly over the period 1980-2009. Not only that, this temperature increase contributed to 300 more deaths during these heat waves than would have been the case without climate change. The scientists also calculated that in Sweden as a whole, this would mean about 1,500 more deaths due to climate change over the past 30 years.

"Mortality associated with extreme heat during the relevant period was doubled, compared to if we had not had some climate change," said Daniel Oudin Astrom, one of the researchers, in a news release. "Furthermore, we saw that even though the winters have become milder, extremely cold periods occurred more often, which also contributed to a small increase in mortality during the winter."

The findings reveal that climate change can most definitely impact mortality in an area. More specifically, it shows that the climate extremes associated with a shifting climate can be dangerous. These dangers can largely be counteracted by showing those not used to warmer (or cooler) temperatures how best to prepare for this weather.

The findings are published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

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