Brussels, Belgium.- The hottest summer on record in Europe likely resulted in more than 20,000 excess deaths in France, Germany, Spain and the UK, according to official data.
Excess deaths, the difference between the total number of deaths in the summer of 2022 and the historical average, was particularly high during the three intense heat waves that hit Western Europe between June and August.
Extreme heat is dangerous to human health because it worsens all existing medical conditions and can lead to heat stroke in vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, and those who do outdoor physical labor.
Europe lived in 2022 the hottest summer ever recorded, according to the EU Earth observation agency, Copernicus.
Climate change made the heatwave that hit the UK in June at least 10 times more likely, according to the World Weather Attribution, a group of scientists who do rapid analyzes of how global warming influences extreme weather events. The new UK heat record of 40.3 degrees Celsius was set on July 19 and beat the previous record set in 2019 by 1.6 degrees Celsius. Forty-six UK weather stations recorded new highs that month.
“Heat waves are one of the biggest threats posed by climate change,” said Friederike Otto, senior professor of climate science at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment in London.
“High temperatures are responsible for thousands of deaths around the world each year, many of which go unreported.”
England and Wales suffered 3,271 excess deaths between June 1 and September 7, according to a report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The report excludes deaths from coronavirus and notes that the number of deaths was higher on the hottest days.
More than 10,400 people died in France during the summer months, according to data published yesterday by the government agency Santé Publique France. One in four of those deaths occurred during a heat wave, according to the French report, and excess deaths were 20 percent higher in regions under red alert for extreme temperatures.
In Spain, more than 4,600 deaths between June and August were attributable to heat, according to the public Carlos III Health Institute, which conducts health research.
In Germany, some 4,500 people died during the summer months due to extreme temperatures, according to estimates by the government agency Robert Koch Institute.
“Heat waves are becoming more frequent and intense as the planet warms, so we can expect more and hotter heat waves in the future,” said Eunice Lo, a climate change and health researcher at the University of from Bristol.
“Observed heat waves have been made more likely or more intense due to human emissions of greenhouse gases.”