Seven heatwaves in the last 30 years in Ireland suggest increased Mortality

Date released: Jun 06 2013

The EPA has today published new research by researchers in DIT led by Professor Pat Goodman that presents an assessment of seven heatwaves that have occurred in Ireland over the last 30 years and their impact on mortality in Ireland.  Although we do not normally think of Ireland as a place that has heatwaves, this research shows that past heatwaves have resulted in increased deaths, illness and hospitalisations.  A heatwave is defined as a number of days where the maximum daily temperature is above 25°C. 

Dara Lynott, EPA Deputy Director General said:

“The EPA’s STRIVE research programme focuses on assessing future climate change impacts for Ireland to determine vulnerabilities and resilience to climate impact.  This work, funded by the EPA research programme, quantifies the relationship between extreme heat events and mortality rates, and identifies relevant adaptation strategies.”

In the EPA funded study, researchers found that there were seven heatwaves during the study period and that these were associated with approximately 294 greater than expected deaths. The majority of these deaths – 241- occurred in rural areas with 53 occurring in urban areas, specifically Dublin, Cork, Drogheda, Arklow, Dundalk, Galway, Limerick and Waterford.

Professor Pat Goodman said,

“More people die when temperatures are at either extreme, namely during cold weather and during very hot weather.  Climate change calls for an evaluation of the past, present and future health risks associated with heat and heatwaves and our study has found that future more severe heatwaves may result in a significant excess mortality.”

The research indicates that the changing climate will increase Ireland’s vulnerability to more severe heat episodes and this factor, combined with the ageing of the population, may result in significantly more heat-related deaths and health impacts in the future.  

Professor Goodman concluded by saying that,

“As we face the challenges of global warming and climate change we need to identify what groups of the population are most at risk, and who needs to take precautionary measures to protect themselves from the heat.  Our study recommends putting in place the capacity to relay timely warning messages in the case of future heatwaves and improving the energy efficiency of the housing stock so as to limit the adverse impacts of heatwaves.  ”

The report, Extreme Temperatures and Mortality in Ireland, can be found on the EPA website.

ENDS

Further information: Niamh Hatchell/ Emily Williamson, EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours) or media@epa.ie

Notes to Editors:

Heatwaves in Ireland: When the maximum daily temperature is above 25°C for a number of days, a heatwave event is deemed to be underway in Ireland.  Researchers examined data between 1981 and 2006.  Heatwaves were observed in a majority of meteorological stations in July 1983, August 1984, June 1995, August 1995, June 2003, August 2003 and July 2006.

Winter mortality is currently higher than summer mortality in Ireland and cold-related mortality is expected to remain of greater concern than heat-related mortality during the next 10-15 years.