Why a 40C day in the UK is more deadly than a 40C day in other countries | UK News
Britain is less able to cope with high temperatures than many other countries, according to global heat mortality data.
Some have wondered why in other parts of the world, such as the Middle East and Australia, temperatures of 40C (104F) do not warrant such high levels of alarm as seen in the UK this week.
But the overall picture shows that the UK, like much of northern Europe, is ill-equipped to deal with high temperatures compared to the hottest parts of the world.
This helps explain why researchers predict the current heat wave could lead to nearly 1,000 deaths in England and Wales.
The map shows the Minimum Mortality Temperature (MMT) for different countries. This is the average daily temperature at which the fewest people die – a rise in temperature above this point results in more deaths.
The UK has an MMT of 17.0°C – calculated from an average of 10 different regions.
Looking across Europe, there is a clear north-south trend. The warmer southern countries have a higher minimum death temperature – Italy’s is nearly 5C warmer than the UK’s.
This shows that these countries are better able to cope with warmer temperatures. When average daily temperatures rise above 17C in the UK, more people die, but in Italy that only happens when temperatures rise above 21.7C.
But these MMT differences are small compared to those between European countries and places like Iran, where the figure is 28C.
And MMT in neighboring Kuwait is the highest in the world at 31°C.
In tropical climates, MMT is also consistently higher – it exceeds 27°C in Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines – and is 22.7°C in the varied climate of China.
Across the world, there is wide variation in MMT, but it generally follows a trend that it is higher in hotter places, suggesting that these countries are better equipped to deal with higher temperatures.
Data shows that when it comes to health outcomes, a 40°C day in the UK is not the same as a 40°C day in Iran. One would expect more excess deaths in London than in Tehran at the same high temperature.
This is largely due to the fact that people and societies adapt to hot environments when they get used to them.
This includes adaptations such as building houses with good ventilation or air conditioning and the public being constantly aware of the dangers of hot weather.
There is also evidence that people can become physiologically better at coping with hot environments when they have become acclimatized to them.
The results suggest that as climate change leads to warmer temperatures, societies will adapt.
Yet heatwaves that significantly exceed the average temperature, as is currently the case in the UK, are likely to continue to lead to more deaths.
Minimum mortality temperature data was collected by the Multi-Country Multi-City (MCC) Collaborative Research Network. Several studies have been carried out in some countries at different locations. The figure reported is the median figure of these studies by country.
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