Extreme heat killed over 61,000 people last summer in Europe amid warnings death tolls will rise by 2030

Researchers warned the death toll across the continent will increase each summer in the next two decades
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Extreme heat killed more than 61,000 people last summer in Europe and the death toll will continue to rise over the next two decades, scientists have warned.

Public health experts found 61,672 people died of heat-related causes between 30 May and 4 September 2022 with the mortality rate the highest in Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal.

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The most intense heat hit from 18 to 24 July when it killed 11,637 people.

The researchers from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) with the French National Institute of Health (Inserm) studied temperature and mortality data between 2015 and 2022 for 823 regions in 35 European countries.

This data was used to estimate epidemiological models and predict how many deaths could be traced back to the temperature.

The researchers confirmed the study talks about “people for whom the occurrence of these temperatures triggered their death.”

Extreme heat killed over 61,000 people last summer in Europe. (Photo: AFP via Getty Images) Extreme heat killed over 61,000 people last summer in Europe. (Photo: AFP via Getty Images)
Extreme heat killed over 61,000 people last summer in Europe. (Photo: AFP via Getty Images)
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Joan Ballester, an associate research professor in climate and health at Barcelona Institute for Global Health and lead author of the study, told the Guardian: “There are people that would have died anyway, but those are not counted with this methodology.”

In most cases hot weather kills people by stopping the body from coping with existing health problems like heart and lung disease - only a small number of heat-related deaths are caused by heat stroke.

The study found that in every week of summer 2022 average temperatures in Europe “uninterruptedly” exceeded baseline values of the previous three decades.

The UK is estimated to have suffered 3,469 heat-related deaths last summer.

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The data also suggested that there were a total of 35,406 premature deaths in women compared to an estimated 21,667 deaths in men.

Last year the highest temperature recorded was 47°C in Pinhão, Portugal on 14 July while the UK saw temperatures reach 40.3C for the first time in Coningsby, Lincolnshire on 19 July during the heatwave.

Ana Maria Vicedo-Cabrera, the head of the climate and health research group at the University of Berne, who was not involved in the study, praised said the true death toll from last year may be even higher.

The research team warned that the continent will face an average of more than 68,000 premature deaths each summer by 2030 and more than 94,000 by 2040.

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The stark figures come as the Met Office has said that the UK experienced its hottest June since records began, smashing the previous records recorded in 1940 and 1976.

The average monthly temperature in June this year reached 15.8C - a 0.9C increase on the record last set almost four decades ago.

Experts have placed the blame for soaring temperatures on climate change, saying that this has made the chance of breaking the 1940 and 1976 joint-record of 14.9C almost twice as likely.

Friends of the Earth climate campaigner, Jamie Peters, told NationalWorld that the record-breaking heatwaves experienced last summer were going to become more frequent and intense.

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