What are the health effects of temperature extremes across Europe, and how are they changing?

Policy Question
Indicator codes: CLIM 036

Key messages

(16 Dec 2016)

  • Heat waves and extreme cold spells are associated with decreases in general population well-being and with increases in mortality and morbidity, especially in vulnerable population groups. Temperature thresholds for health impacts differ according to the region and season.
  • The number of heat extremes has substantially increased across Europe in recent decades. Heat waves have caused tens of thousands of premature deaths in Europe since 2000.
  • It is virtually certain that the length, frequency and intensity of heat waves will increase in the future. This increase will lead to a substantial increase in mortality over the next decades, especially in vulnerable population groups, unless adaptation measures are taken.
  • Cold-related mortality is projected to decrease owing to better social, economic and housing conditions in many countries in Europe. There is inconclusive evidence about whether or not the projected warming will lead to a further substantial decrease in cold-related mortality.

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