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Dying from the Summer Heat Waves of 1996-2012 in Slovakia

Paper Reviewed
Vyberci, D., Svec, M., Fasko, P., Savinova, H., Trizna, M. and Micietova, E. 2015. The effects of the 1996-2012 summer heat events on human mortality in Slovakia. Moravian Geographical Reports 23: 58-70.

Working with temperature data obtained from 23 climatological stations spread throughout the entire area of Slovakia that covered the period 1996-2012, together with mortality data obtained from the Public Health Authority of the Slovak Republic that were based on datasets provided by the Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic, Vyberci et al. (2015) calculated deviations of death counts from historical baseline (expected) mortality that had earlier been developed for the entire country by Gosling et al. (2009). And what did they thereby learn?

The six Slovakian scientists determined that the various heat waves experienced during the period of their study were indeed characterized by significant increases in human mortality. However, they also report that "the most extreme heat periods were commonly followed by a deficit in mortality," due to the deaths of "people with poor health," who would have died "in a very short period of time anyway, regardless of the weather" (see figure below), as had earlier been found to be the case by Gosling et al. (2014). And so they confirmed that "an extreme weather event in fact does not cause true excess mortality, but only a short-term shift in deaths among terminally-ill people," as had also been found to be the case by Martiello and Giancchi (2010).

The end result of this set of circumstances, therefore, was a confirmation of the now well-established fact -- as noted by several other such studies that are reviewed on our website under the general Subject Index heading of Health Effects (Temperature - Hot vs. Cold Weather) -- that the small net number of heat-related deaths of summer is typically more than adequately compensated by the life-saving "heat waves" of winter.

Figure 1. Mortality regime (total,elderly, male and female) related to multi-day summer heat periods in Slovakia over the period 19962012. The brown bars indicate statistically significant values at the 95% level (based on the relevant confidence interval). Adapted from Vyberci et al. (2015).

Gosling, S.N., Bryce, E.K., Dixon, P.G., Gabriel, K.M.A., Gosling, E.Y, Hanes, J.M., Hondula, D.M., Liang, L., Bustos Mac Lean, P.A., Muthers, S., Tavares Nascimento, S., Petralli, M., Vanos, J.K. and Wanka, E.R. 2014. A glossary for biometeorology. International Journal of Biometeorology 58: 277-308.

Gosling, S.N., Lowe, J.A., McGregor, G.R., Pelling, M. and Malamud, B.D. 2009. Associations between elevated atmospheric temperature and human mortality: a critical review of the literature. Climatic Change 92: 299-341.

Martiello, M.A. and Giacchi, M.V. 2010. High temperatures and health outcomes: A review of literature. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health 38: 826-837.

Posted 9 February 2016