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Impact of regional climate change on human health.

Nature

Disease Vectors, Global Health, Greenhouse Effect, Heat Stroke, epidemiology, etiology, mortality, trends, Humans, Infection, Public Health, statistics & numerical data, Animals

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      Abstract

      The World Health Organisation estimates that the warming and precipitation trends due to anthropogenic climate change of the past 30 years already claim over 150,000 lives annually. Many prevalent human diseases are linked to climate fluctuations, from cardiovascular mortality and respiratory illnesses due to heatwaves, to altered transmission of infectious diseases and malnutrition from crop failures. Uncertainty remains in attributing the expansion or resurgence of diseases to climate change, owing to lack of long-term, high-quality data sets as well as the large influence of socio-economic factors and changes in immunity and drug resistance. Here we review the growing evidence that climate-health relationships pose increasing health risks under future projections of climate change and that the warming trend over recent decades has already contributed to increased morbidity and mortality in many regions of the world. Potentially vulnerable regions include the temperate latitudes, which are projected to warm disproportionately, the regions around the Pacific and Indian oceans that are currently subjected to large rainfall variability due to the El Niño/Southern Oscillation sub-Saharan Africa and sprawling cities where the urban heat island effect could intensify extreme climatic events.

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      Most cited references 58

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      More intense, more frequent, and longer lasting heat waves in the 21st century.

      A global coupled climate model shows that there is a distinct geographic pattern to future changes in heat waves. Model results for areas of Europe and North America, associated with the severe heat waves in Chicago in 1995 and Paris in 2003, show that future heat waves in these areas will become more intense, more frequent, and longer lasting in the second half of the 21st century. Observations and the model show that present-day heat waves over Europe and North America coincide with a specific atmospheric circulation pattern that is intensified by ongoing increases in greenhouse gases, indicating that it will produce more severe heat waves in those regions in the future.
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        The role of increasing temperature variability in European summer heatwaves.

        Instrumental observations and reconstructions of global and hemispheric temperature evolution reveal a pronounced warming during the past approximately 150 years. One expression of this warming is the observed increase in the occurrence of heatwaves. Conceptually this increase is understood as a shift of the statistical distribution towards warmer temperatures, while changes in the width of the distribution are often considered small. Here we show that this framework fails to explain the record-breaking central European summer temperatures in 2003, although it is consistent with observations from previous years. We find that an event like that of summer 2003 is statistically extremely unlikely, even when the observed warming is taken into account. We propose that a regime with an increased variability of temperatures (in addition to increases in mean temperature) may be able to account for summer 2003. To test this proposal, we simulate possible future European climate with a regional climate model in a scenario with increased atmospheric greenhouse-gas concentrations, and find that temperature variability increases by up to 100%, with maximum changes in central and eastern Europe.
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          European seasonal and annual temperature variability, trends, and extremes since 1500.

          Multiproxy reconstructions of monthly and seasonal surface temperature fields for Europe back to 1500 show that the late 20th- and early 21st-century European climate is very likely (>95% confidence level) warmer than that of any time during the past 500 years. This agrees with findings for the entire Northern Hemisphere. European winter average temperatures during the period 1500 to 1900 were reduced by approximately 0.5 degrees C (0.25 degrees C for annual mean temperatures) compared to the 20th century. Summer temperatures did not experience systematic century-scale cooling relative to present conditions. The coldest European winter was 1708/1709; 2003 was by far the hottest summer.
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            Author and article information

            Journal
            16292302
            10.1038/nature04188

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