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Excess mortality from heat: The deadly consequences of the climate crisis in Germany


Heavy rain and flooding are not the only dangers in Germany. A new study shows that between 2018 and 2020, the sharp rise in temperatures cost the lives of almost 20,000 people.

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Summer heat can be deadly, even in Germany

Photo: Christoph Hardt / Future Image / IMAGO

The climate crisis is not a threat that will only unfold its deadly effects in the future.

Many people are already dying every year from the effects, including extreme heat.

And that also applies to Germany.

Researchers from the Robert Koch Institute, the Federal Environment Agency and the German Weather Service have published a study in the »Deutsches Ärzteblatt«.

High summer temperatures led to thousands of heat-related deaths in Germany in the years 2018 to 2020 - a total of 19,300 people died from the effects of the heat.

This is the first time since 1992, when the study period began, that excess mortality due to heat has occurred in three consecutive years.

“A serious threat to human health”

The effect was particularly strong four years ago - in 2018 Germany experienced the second warmest summer since records began in 1881. With an estimated number of around 8,700 heat-related deaths, the year was of a similar magnitude to the historic heat years of 1994 and 2003, the wrote researchers.

At that time, around 10,000 deaths were reported.

more on the subject

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  • UN climate summit: One billion people are threatened by extreme heat

In 2018 there was an unusually long heatwave in Germany, and noticeably high average weekly temperatures were also measured.

For 2019, the experts estimate 6,900 heat-related deaths, for 2020 they expect 3,700 heat-related deaths.

No significantly increased heat-related mortality was determined for 2021.

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According to the study, the influence of high temperatures on mortality has decreased slightly overall since the early 1990s.

This indicates a certain adaptation to the heat.

"It is conceivable, for example, to change individual behavior through increased awareness, such as wearing airy clothing, drinking enough fluids or going to shaded or air-conditioned rooms." people in Germany are«.

It can be assumed that the progression of the climate crisis will make the occurrence of extreme heat waves more frequent and more likely.

It is already clear how the number of hot days in Germany is increasing.

The contribution of the climate crisis can also be approximately quantified for the hot year 2018.

The branch of research that attempts this is called attribution research.

For this purpose, current weather data is compared with data from a parallel world.

This parallel world differs only in that there are no man-made greenhouse gases in it.

The discrepancy between the dates represents the contribution of climate change.

An attribution analysis has shown that a heat wave like that of 2018 in Europe has become at least twice as likely as a result of the climate crisis.

The heat was greater than it would have been without climate change, the drought was drier.

Certain population groups need better protection

The authors of the study called for the handling of heat waves in Germany to be significantly improved.

Vulnerable population groups must be adequately protected, for example older people.

High temperatures can put a lot of strain on the cardiovascular system, among other things.

When the body loses a lot of fluid, what is known as blood viscosity can change.

When the outside temperature is high, it is also an effort to keep the body temperature constant.

Existing complaints, such as respiratory diseases, can be aggravated.

Since heat is rarely recognized as the direct cause of death, the experts used statistical methods for their analysis.


Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2022-07-01

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