The Coldest Temperatures Since the 1960s Responsible For A Rapid Rise In Recent Cold-Weather Deaths

A new study finds China’s 2016 “cold wave” – a sudden 6°C temperature plunge below the average, sustained over several days – resulted in a dramatic increase in cold-related deaths for a period of 5 weeks.

Since the 1980s, there have been 20 times more deaths attributable to cold weather than to hot weather (Gaspirrini et al., 2015).

In the UK, “daily mortality and weather patterns across nine regions of England…revealed that the population in England is more susceptible to cold weather” than warm weather (Psistaki et al., 2020). For example, there were over 50,000 excess deaths attributed to extremely cold weather during the winter of 2017-2018, the highest totals since 1976 (The Guardian).

Image Source: The Guardian

A new study by Ho et al. (2020) analyzes  the deadly effects of a 2016 “cold wave” – a sustained temperature drop of >6°C below the January average – that deleteriously affected 1.18 billion people in Eastern China over a period of 5 weeks.

Hong Kong, with a subtropical climate, saw temperatures plunge to 3.1°C – the “coldest temperature in the past 59 years”. Taipei experienced cold temperatures that were the “lowest in 44 years”. Weather stations in Yangmingshan, Kinmen, and the Matsu Islands reported “the coldest records since monitoring services first operated”. And subtropical climate cities like Guangzhou experienced their first snow event ever.

Sustained cold weather can lead to a 21% increase in mortality from respiratory illnesses. A 2008 cold wave in subtropical locations in China, for example, led to a 60% increase in non-accidental mortality. During the 2016 Eastern China cold wave, over 9,000 people died from late January to late March (2016) in Hong Kong alone, many from hypothermia and cardiac arrest.

Apparently “global warming” offers little protection from the much more serious consequences of cold weather anomalies.

Image Source: Ho et al. (2020)

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