Monday, April 21, 2014

Future heat waves pose risk for population of greater London

A press release from the University of Oxford: A study led by Oxford University has modelled the effects of future heat waves on people living in Greater London in 2050 and concludes that the risk of heat-related deaths could be significantly reduced if buildings were adapted properly for climate change.

The model, which takes into account future changes to urban land use and man-made heat emissions, estimates an additional 800 heat-related deaths per year by 2050. Researchers used projections on likely increases in temperatures carried out by the Met Office and Newcastle University, coupled with data on demographic changes from the Office of National Statistics, to calculate the likely health risks of future heat waves for the population of Greater London.

The research, published online by the journal Climatic Change, says that policy makers need to fo
cus on how to adapt buildings and cities for future climate change. It highlights London as particularly vulnerable, owing to the so-called ‘urban heat island’ effect, which sees cities become hotter than the surrounding areas due to high concentrations of people, buildings and activities.

The Oxford study calculates that if the likely temperature increase was lessened by 1-2°C through better ventilation, shading or other means of keeping buildings cooler, the number of heat-related deaths could be cut by between 32-69%. The study also suggests that current climate scenarios tend to underestimate the effects and risks of heat waves in urban areas because they don’t account for the additional effect of the urban heat island.

It is widely known that summer heat waves lead to rises in the number of deaths and hospital admissions from thermal exhaustion, and projections suggest that heat waves are likely to become more regular and intense in the future. During the 2003 heat wave, London experienced a rise in the number of deaths of between 650 and 1,000. Hospital admissions from other heat-related conditions such as heat exhaustion and respiratory disorders also rose....

A rooftop view of London, circa 1865

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