Cold kills: Summer no sweat for Aussies but winter freeze fatal

Australians are more likely to die during unseasonably cold winters than hotter than average summers, QUT research has found.

australia-hottest-days

From the Queensland University of Technology

Across the country severe winters that are colder and drier than normal are a far bigger risk to health than sweltering summers that are hotter than average.

QUT Associate Professor Adrian Barnett, a statistician with the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation and the lead researcher of the study, said death rates in Australian cities were up to 30 per cent higher in winter than summer.

The researchers analysed temperature, humidity and mortality data from 1988 to 2009 for Adelaide Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.

Professor Barnett said the finding that hotter or more humid summers had no effect on mortality was “surprising”.

“We know that heatwaves kill people in the short-term, but our study did not find any link between hotter summers and higher deaths,” he said.

“The increase in deaths during colder winter could be because Australians are well-prepared for whatever summer throws at them, but are less able to cope with cold weather. There isn’t the same focus on preparing for cold weather as there is for hot weather, for example through public health campaigns or even wearing the right sort of clothes.

“The strongest increase in deaths during a colder winter was in Brisbane, the city with the warmest climate, with an extra 59 deaths a month on average for a one degree decrease in mean winter temperature.”

“Brisbane has the mildest winter of the five cities but has the greatest vulnerability. We believe this is because most homes are designed to lose heat in summer, which also allows cold outdoor air to get inside during winter.”

Professor Barnett said the findings of the study, published in the journal Environmental Research, could trigger more prevention programs to help reduce the future burden on the health system.

“Excess winter deaths have a significant impact on health systems across Australia,” he said.

“There are extra demands on doctors, hospitals and emergency departments in winter months, especially for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases which are triggered by exposure to cold weather.

“Our findings show the winter increases in mortality are predictable so ramping up public health measures, such as influenza vaccinations and insulating homes, particularly for vulnerable groups, should be considered to try to reduce the impact of severe winters.”

###

*Individual city data is available*

Advertisements

117 thoughts on “Cold kills: Summer no sweat for Aussies but winter freeze fatal

  1. I had house mates from Switzerland while living in Sydney. They said that they had never been so cold in their lives. It was probably the only time I came close to hypothermia as I went out drinking in just a short sleeve shirt and the temperature dropped to 8°C. (46°F, I know. Poor didums).

    I’ll spend winter afternoons in a T-shirt often and the temperature will drop to 0°C by morning and I suspect that this will catch people out, even in Brisbane where it has dropped to 2.6°C in recent years. I know that there has been research that shows the cold weather kills people that are not on there death beds, but heat waves usually kill those with serious health issues leading to a reduced death rate for months afterwards.

  2. Anyone would think that may have something to do with humans evolving in warm climate ,which explains why we have sweat glands, and can only live in cold climates by wearing clothes. Meanwhile compare the number of people living in the Arctic area with the much warmer tropics and see which area has more native populations.

    The reality is ,if water can be obtained, we can happily live with more warmth they we can with greater cold .

    • But, you must concede, mankind is able to adaptation. There are Inuit and there are Touareg, for example. They have arranged to the fullest to their respective environment. That’s a fact the Alarwarmistas don’t like: it’s better to adapt than to try to manipulate the world climate. But the Alarwarmistas like stasis better than anything else. I hope, they’ll die out soon for lack of adaptation skills.

      • Non said “But the Alarwarmistas like stasis better than anything else.”

        And what do they want most most of all? Complete control over every human being on the planet. That is the end goal, this is just one of the vehicles.

    • knr on January 13, 2015 at 12:40 am
      Anyone would think that may have something to do with humans evolving in warm climate …

      Anyone would be wrong. We evolved in an ice age, the Pleistocene, with interglacials and extreme instability. So we had to adapt, think ahead, respond to climate change. Wise up. Ergo the grotesquely bulbous heads, hands with thumbs and high IQ that we evolved along with long childhood.

      Climate change is our mother. Except that now somehow it has become our enemy.

      • I agree with you Phlogiston. Climate change is our mother. I believe that it’s political borders that have made it difficult for humans to [manage] the ever changing world we have so readily adapted to in the past.

      • For Mike Jonas – the degree doesn’t matter if what they are saying isn’t what is wanted to be heard. This will carry no extra weight because it says the wrong thing, thus Steven is right, and most everyone on planet Earth could have told them that from general knowledge. The statistics adds nothing of value to what we already knew.

  3. I happened to look at the historical Brisbane temperature records on the BOM site recently, and was amazed to see that of the handful of official BOM temperature sites in the greater Brisbane area (btw by far the largest city council in Australia) they mostly only extended back 20-30 years, and of coursethe Brisbane CBD one was totally built up! I ask why no long records, when Brisbane has been settled for well over a century? No wonder we are “suffering the highest temps on record” every year!

    • Before 1988 the Brisbane readings were taken on top of Wickham Terrace, a high cool spot. Then a development there forced a shift to the new airport by the sea. This produced lower temperature readings. So a bit later the site was shifted again to near the CBD. This is at Raymond Park in Kangaroo Point. As a kid I lived 100 meters from that site and it is much warmer than the previous two sites. It gets no cool breeze and has two major roads with very heavy traffic right next to it. Hence, maximums would have to be higher than they were.

  4. Sort of taken by surprise by the Hobart temperature. I spent a lot of time down there (live in Canberra) in the late 90’s doing IT consulting. Even in the summer, it is not especially warm/comfortable after sunset…

    • A town 150 km south, Cobar, was only 47°C the next day and one 200 km east was only 45°C on that day. They are the only neighbours with records of the time at BOM. Newspaper articles in Trove record 123°F at Brewarrina (on the map) which is close to Bourke, on 3 Jan 1909 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page1312011

      Interestingly, the paper gives the temperature of Cobar as 117°F on that day, so BOM stuffed up Cobar’s temp and them assumed that Bourke’s temp was stuffed up. The paper also has two nearby towns at 118°F.

  5. I live North of Brisbane, the climate is noticeably warmer here. Winter here sucks when it’s cold, your body is so adapted to heat, the houses are so engineered to shed heat, on the few winter days when the Mercury drops its really unpleasant.

  6. These guys are real geniuses, arn’t they? Whod a thunk it. Cold kills and heat doesn’t sometimes and sometimes it does. If it’s short term heat it kills. OOOOOOOOh Geniuses at work. Quiet please

    • I think they probably mean that if you are old and sick and at death’s door, then a heat-wave can kill you, while on the other hand sustained cold will kill anyone without proper protection, young or old, healthy or sick.

  7. My parents emigrated from Central Europe to Australia and are adamant, that even though Central Europe gets much colder winters, the culture is more adapted to them, and so deal with the cold better. They say in Australia, people are expected just to ‘put up’ with the cold, which makes it harder than in other places with a colder winter but where people are well catered for.

  8. #shitthatacademicssay ““We know that heatwaves kill people in the short-term…………”

  9. I remember December 1980 in Cairo, same north latitude as Sydney is south latitude. My wife and I celebrated Christmas Eve dinner huddled together in the kitchen with the oven on and the oven door open.

    Never in Toronto Canada had I ever been so cold indoors in winter.

    In the equatorial tropics at sea level after three or four overcast days, mornings can become too chilly for comfort without a jumper (sweater).

  10. I’m not an Australian myself, but I’ve spent a fair amount of time there, so I know it can be bloody cold, even out in the desert. I remember once on a camping tour from Perth up to Kimberley in the spring I had brought a fairly warm sleeping bag (I slept on top of it up in Kimberley). My tentmate hadn’t, since had heard how hot it is in Australia and spent much of the first night walking round outside the tent to keep warm. In the morning we went into the next town and bought him a proper sleeping bag.
    And as for Tasmania, I’ve been uncomfortably cold on Bruny Island in November, despite having brought warm and windproof clothes that are perfectly adequate in springtime in Northern Europe.

    It doesn’t help that Australian houses have essentially zero insulation and are usually extremely draughty. I’ve never been able to figure this out, since insulation is just as good for keeping heat out as for keeping it in. On the few occasions when it gets uncomfortably warm (which means in the low 30’s here in Sweden) I’m always careful to keep doors and windows closed to keep it cool inside.

    • “It doesn’t help that Australian houses have essentially zero insulation and are usually extremely draughty. I’ve never been able to figure this out, since insulation is just as good for keeping heat out as for keeping it in. ”

      However a large problem is that if heat gets inside an insulated house in summer it is difficult to get rid of. Here in Sydney you just open the doors and windows and wait for the southerly busters.

      • Opening doors and windows works exactly as well if the house is properly insulated. And you need a much smaller AC unit too.

      • I keep the curtains drawn during the day to limit light, and heat, entering my unit. Keeps it nice and cool most of the time. Sadly, I can do nothing about humidity!

      • Insulation has never been big in Australia, particularly in the northern regions. Winters are short, floods can be widespread, getting materials to isolated locations has been difficult in the past, corrugated iron has been the choice of roofing for ages as asphalt and concrete have been in limited supply (unlike Europe and the US), a manufacturing industry has not been huge due to large distances and limited market, native and introduced animals love a nice padded attic, mouse plagues are a somewhat regular occurrence in rural areas, the black, clay soil of many inland areas plays havoc with foundations, termites are voracious, and when it comes down to it, the Australian culture hasn’t been receptive or in great need of insulation in homes. That will probably change, but it might not. It is what it is.

      • @ Tony B

        It is changing; the Building Code of Australia (BCA) mandates that. When I built The House of Steel in southern Tasmania 12 years ago, I sealed and super-insulated. People said I was crazy spending all that money on PVC framed double glazing. But it’s one hell of a comfortable house to live in and costs very little to heat. No AC. When it gets hot we just fire up the barbie, throw a few shrimps on and drink cold chardonnay, or NZ sauvignon blanc.

      • Non Nomen said @ January 13, 2015 at 3:02 am

        Brick, cobblestone and mortar are a neat solution…

        Except when they don’t work. They require strong foundations and the strong clay in the Huon Valley swells when it’s wet and shrinks when it’s dry. Even though the regulators are now mandating concrete foundations 2 metres deep, the slabs still crack, as does the masonry above.

  11. This is so true, no matter how cold it is everyone still wears shorts and thongs. Most people don’t even own extra blankets!

  12. The desert in the middle of oz is special, can be 40C during the day nigh on 0C at night. I like to camp at least once on a trip thru the middle, when the sun goes down it is like turning off a light switch, a flat horizon forever and a clear sky for a thousand miles is almost instant dark. I lay on my back on the warm sand and watch the stars come out only takes about 15 minutes and the stars are so bright you can see for camping without moon light, magic.

    • Yes, I’ve often done that too. And half an hour later it’s uncomfortably cold, and time to get into the sleeping bag. Nobody with personal experience of desert nights can believe that CO2 and not H2O is the main greenhouse gas.

      • The Red Sea is notorious for similar temperature swings. I have personally experienced high 30s C in the afternoon, sub zero at 4:00 a.m.

  13. As an aside, during my time in the RAF, the only officers’ mess I stayed in that provided electric blankets as standard issue was in Tripoli, Libya.

  14. I doubt there is a desert in the world that have would have 40C during the day and 0C overnight. My experience of desert climes (measuring temps) suggests hot days occur in summer (surpise!) with rarely less than 15C overnight (and minima over 30C occasionally). Sure zero overnight temps occur- in winter, where max temps are more likely to be in the 20-30C range and often less. Of course desert “freezing nights” are more likely at altitude (not in Oz, obviously) but then 40C max would be unlikely. As for Oz houses, most are atrocious both in winter and summer, at least in my experience. It’s not just the lack of insulation, it’s “tract housing” with poor solar orientation. While more modern houses have good insulation, in some areas the European “eaveless” look has become fashionable (plus it’s cheaper, saving $2000 off the price of a McMansion): a more stupid house style trend for this country is hard to imagine.

    • Yes Mike.

      A study I published based on thirty years of temperature and precipitation records from various inland tropical locations showed that the more moist regions had both lower mean daily maximum and minimum temperatures than drier regions at similar latitudes and altitudes.

      Water vapor cools and does not, and cannot warm at all, let alone by the 25 degrees or more that the IPCC would like you to be gullible enough to believe. Hence it provides negative feedback for any natural warming, though no warming is due to carbon dioxide anyway, See http://whyitsnotco2.com

    • Mike, visit Alice Springs in winter and you’ll find that near or below freezing occurs more often than you would ever want. Place feels like Siberia on windy mornings, air is very dry, makes skin on your hands crack and bleed if you’re working. I have no problem accepting cold can take you out there on a cold night.

      http://media.bom.gov.au/social/blog/31/heart-of-central-australia-feels-the-chills/
      http://www.weatherzone.com.au/news/alice-springs-shivers-through-unusual-late-winter-cold/124200.

      • Alice Springs was included in the above study. Many inland locations in Australia (including moist ones) have low minimums in winter – ever been to Canberra in winter? Hand waving like your comment proves nothing. My study proves with >99% statistical significance that water vapor cools.

      • I know that to be true.
        I worked in the oil fields around Eromanga for several years. In the evenings we would spray a lot of bore water around to keep the dust down. Next morning the puddles would be frozen solid. By 10 AM it would be 35 degrees and climbing. (Yes, I know, “BIG OIL”)

        Oh and BTW, where the bloody hell are all the “moist areas” in central Australia. Been looking for them for 200 years.

        And I thought Canberra was up in the mountains, no wonder it gets cold in winter. 574 meters above sea level.

      • Yeah, but Alice Springs record low in January is +10C, not zero.

        So it is not very cold in summer nights and sub-freezing nights there are not average weather either. I believe though it can be horrible if temp is -5C and dry gusts chill an unarmed camper.

    • Woomera in SA had 28.4°C on 5th of August 1973 and it dropped to -1.4°C the next day. I don’t know if that is the biggest drop in Aus but its 30°C. The difference in monthly means is 14-15°C in the warmer months and 10-12 in the cooler ones.

      • I live in Canberra and can’t wait for the first frosts of Winter! It can get pretty hot in Summer but most of us deal with it. I grew up in South West NSW and Summers in the 1970’s and 80’s were always super hot 45+ degrees C for days and days on end. Mostly a dry heat and I don’t like the humidity at all. We “cope” so well because we don’t go running around in the middle of the day in the heat. Although I remember playing softball in the heat and having to walk home in it. Think Cottees cordial ads…We stay in the shade and keep hydrated and one of the BEST things I do when really hot (and without air-conditioning ) is to immerse your feet and ankles in a cool tub of water and wait for a coastal breeze. When it comes swing open the doors and windows and go ahhhhhhhhhhhhh! Canberrans as a rule do know how to cope with cold Winters. We thrive on it and some (like me..) can’t wait for the leaves to change. Our wardrobes are full of coats and scarves and jackets for all that the Southerlies can throw at us. We can be found out and about on the coldest of days. Insulated housing helps, but being smart about using Winter Sun to help warm a house is good too. I hate hot hot days really, but love the stillness of the mornings and wait for the Sun to go down and a breeze…It’s warm and humid today and I sweat even as I type. Bring on Autumn! :)

    • As I posted above, I personally saw this sort of range measured by the Mason’s Hygrometers on the M.V. Helenus in the Red Sea around 1980. The readings were +40C at 1600 and -1C at 0400. I posted “high 30s C” above because the screen had siting issues – Helenus was a car carrier and had a large steel ‘garage’ immediately in front of and just below the bridge wings. I can’t remember if she was a Met Office Weather Ship

    • I’ve scraped ice off the windscreen in the morning in the desert in South Australia in October. Admittedly it wasn’t 40C in the afternoon, but over 30.

    • How I agree with you Mike. Eaveless houses in Oz….completely daft but save the builders money!

      We are living in an appallingly badly insulated rental house that is also 90 degrees wrongly oriented. It costs a fortune to heat or cool and we are perishingcold all the winter months. It is a rental property and we can’t wait to leave it for our own house, currently being built. It will be well insulated!

  15. The Earth will enter a period of nearly 500 years of cooling after the next 60 year maximum in about the year 2059.
     
    To UNDERSTAND CLIMATE you need to understand the IMPORTANCE of CONVECTIVE HEAT TRANSFER.

    Convective heat transfer plays a major role in determining planetary tropospheric and surface temperatures. On a planet like Uranus there is virtually no solar radiation penetrating far into its atmosphere. Even the Venus surface receives only about 10% of what Earth’s surface receives.

    Direct solar radiation striking a planet’s surface is obviously not the primary determinant of the temperature thereof.

    You need to understand how the process described in statements of the [i][b]Second Law of Thermodynamics[/b][/i] leads to a density gradient and a temperature gradient in a planet’s troposphere.

    This is the fascinating new physics about which over 1,000 people have been eager to learn just in the last 4 days by visiting http://whyitsnotco2.com

     

     

    • Even the Venus surface receives only about 10% of what Earth’s surface receives.

      The surface temperature of Venus is high primarily due to 90 atmospheres of pressure. It cannot be due to radiation, because very little solar energy penetrates the clouds to reach the surface.

      Climate science remains fixated on radiation, largely due to the effects of nuclear weapons and radiation fears on science and public perception.

      The role of gravity and convection in determining the dry lapse rate, and how this determines the surface temperatures is largely ignored in climate science.

      • No, ferdberple, high pressure does not maintain high temperatures. There is nothing in physics which says it should do so. Pressure is proportional to the product of temperature and density. The process described in the Second Law of Thermodynamics brings about a density gradient and a temperature gradient. The pressure gradient is just a corollary, not a cause of the temperature gradient. To raise a temperature you need net input of thermal energy.

        So, you need to explain the energy flows which actually cause a location on the equator of Venus to rise in temperature by 5 degrees over the course of the 4-month-long day. That has to be solar energy, not some unexplained increase in pressure, but it isn’t getting into the surface by radiation from the less-hot troposphere of Venus.

        The solution to the dilemma, based on the Second Law, is now being read by hundreds each day at http://whyitsnotco2.com

      • @ Why It’s Not CO2: January 13, 2015 at 1:34 pm

        No, ferdberple, high pressure does not maintain high temperatures.

        Me thinks ferdberple was referring to the “mass density” of the atmosphere ….. and not to the “high pressure” at the surface caused by the density of the atmosphere …… when he stated to wit:

        The surface temperature of Venus is high primarily due to 90 atmospheres of pressure.

        The greater the “mass density” ….. the greater the amount of (absorbed) residual “heat” energy.

        It is always “hotter” in the City, ya know.

      • Samuel – if you don’t have a degree in physics (which is obvious) I suggest you don’t make a fool of yourself trying to talk the language of physics. Density does not determine temperature. Neither does mass. Nor does the product of mass and density – your “mass density” whatever that is. Only mean molecular kinetic energy determines temperature. The rest of my response to you is already written in my comment Jan 13 @ 2:59am and at the linked website. You will have no idea as to what is happening in all planets and moons until you read that website. Neither will over 99% of other readers here.

    • @ Why_It’s_Not_C02

      Samuel – if you don’t have a degree in physics (which is obvious) I suggest you don’t make a fool of yourself trying to talk the language of physics.

      I guess every fool has to speak for themselves …. but you didn’t have to prove it.

      I do have a Degree in the physics of the Physical Sciences as well as a Degree in the physics of the Biological Sciences.

      And “YES”, mass density of a molecular entity does determine the quantity of absorbed thermal “heat” energy …. and I believe it is called Specific Heat, ….to wit, educate yourself:
      http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/thermo/spht.html

  16. I left the Nerthlands in mid December 1999. It was 2C at midday with driving wind and sleet. I landed in Perth and it was 42C. It was gorgeous!!
    Watching the world weather from Europe you see winter temperatures in Perth of 20C and think “wow, that’s the place for me!” So it was December 1999 that I emigrated. What I didn’t realise was that in winter in Perth that 20C is only relavant for about 1 hour each day. The day can start at 1C and it takes most of the day to reach that maximum. By sunset it can have dropped to 12C and a few hours after be below 5C again. There are still lots of houses here with no heating, no roof insulation and virtually no house here has double glazing. People moan about the hot summers here, but even here, winters are much more miserable. Why people are afraid of a warming planet, I will never know!

  17. in lower nth SA I used to need a rock or hammer to break winter ice on ducks waterbowls
    in vic far lower down I have had one iceover of more than a tiny mm or so.
    both areas have had stinker summer days of 50 in sa and 44.9 here last summer
    and I used to have a solid stone cottage and now a wooden flimsy
    blinds thermal curtains cieling insulation and strategic window opening times work for me
    never owned an aircon or will
    a fans sufficient.
    the idiots building mc mansions with no eaves verandahs and double glazed un openable windows are fools. those eyesores are ugly and unsuited to aus in any way.

  18. ‘Forrest is a small settlement and railway station on the Trans-Australian Railway in Western Australia. At the 2006 census, Forrest had a population of 18.[1]

    Forrest is on the longest stretch of straight railway in the world, at 479 km from Rawlinna in Western Australia to Ooldea in South Australia.’

    Source- wiki.

    A long way from the given location. Seems the author of the map may be geographically embarrassed.

  19. Several other issues to consider:
    Queensland has become a huge retirement settlement so the proportion of elderly is higher than Oz average in many areas
    Many elderly are in the top age bracket and have moved there to avoid extremes of temp (and get tax advantage too) and to live longer
    A larger than normal percentage have degenerative lung or heart issues
    If you know anything about elderly (and other vulnerable people)death time is most common when temperatures are coolest, the body is at its resting coolest and blood pressure lowest. Between 5.30 and 6.30 am (nurses call it death hour).
    Yes cold temperature will foreshorten very elderly lives but one might argue that in Queensland they have lived longer due to their shift north from colder regions and they were due to topple off the perch anyway?
    But, from experience with the health system and having been involved in analysis of death rates, cold is by far the biggest killer of the vulnerable (heart, lung and immune issues) also destitute particularly alcohol and drug affected..

  20. the only maximums this century were recorded in Tasmania and those are not really hot compared to other places in the world. All the other records are from long time ago.

  21. The increase in deaths during colder winter could be because Australians are well-prepared for whatever summer throws at them, but are less able to cope with cold weather.

    heating takes energy, while cooling takes water (sweat). energy typically costs more than water and thus is less available than water. thus, it is easier to deal with a warm summer than a cold winter.

  22. When folks confront me with Climate Change, I usually ask during the conversation, “why does the flue virus reach its peak in the winter months”? Is man more susceptible to cold climate than hot?

    • Generally speaking, yes. Bacterial infections are often worst in summer, when living conditions (outdoors) are better for bacteria. Viruses which can only multiply inside living cells often do better in winter when the host organism is often in a worse condition physically and more susceptible.

      • People tend to congregate and stay indoors with limited fresh air circulating for longer periods of time during cold weather. Makes it easier for viruses (or should it be viri?) to spread.

  23. “Professor Barnett said the finding that hotter or more humid summers had no effect on mortality was “surprising”.”

    – wow

  24. Across the planet, cold weather kills far more than hot weather. All statistics show this. If it is too hot, generally people slow down or do things at night (I grew up in Arizona and Death Valley) but in extreme cold, the smallest lapse in controlling the environment and one dies, young or old.

    When I was growing up, for example, during the brutal hot summers, we children would build our ‘tree houses’ in the ground by digging out a hollow and roofing it over with something. But when it is -20ºF, even if one builds an igloo, it is still brutally cold inside unless one can make a fire and has a lot of warm clothing.

    The dangers are far greater.

  25. Higher death rates in the winter is a surprise? I’m surprised at what some researchers are surprised about. Have they heard of influenza?

  26. The results are not surprising. The data looks at annual death rates and those are unaffected by unusually hot summers because they do not kill healthy individuals but are fatal to those who are weak and near death. While tragic dying a few weeks early is not as big a deal as seeing a healthy individual robbed of years if not decades of life due to unseasonably cold temperatures. Time to move on because there is nothing here for the alarmists to see.

  27. Wow they needed a study and were surprised by the results to tell us whst every adult with common sense already knew.

  28. No surprise at all…

    Comment re Excess Winter Mortality Rates in the Northern Hemisphere.

    For the Southern Hemisphere, just read upside-down.

    Regards, Allan
    ___________________________

    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/11/07/warmest-year-brings-record-harvests-for-uk/#comment-1783235

    [excerpt]

    In Europe, many more people die of winter cold than summer heat – that is why there is a “Coefficient of Seasonal Variation in Mortality”, a nicer term for the “Excess WINTER Mortality Rate”. This is the greater percentage of people who die in the four winter months (December thru March) than in the warmer eight months of the year. These rates range from a low of about 10% in Scandinavian countries that adapt well to the cold, to about 20% in the UK, and up to about to 30% in Portugal. In England and Wales that is about 25,000 excess WINTER deaths per year. All across Europe these excess WINTER deaths of real people in an AVERAGE winter probably equals about one-quarter of a million souls.

    The forecast for this winter is for brutal cold across Russia, with somewhat lesser cold reaching across western Europe and to the UK. Given Europe’s very high energy costs and possible energy shortages, I suggest that few rational people will be worried about global warming after this winter is over.

    Bundle up good people – stay safe and warm.

    Best to all, Allan

    Excess Winter Mortality in Europe: a Cross Country Analysis Identifying Key Risk Factors
    http://jech.bmj.com/content/57/10/784.full

    Table 1 – Coefficient of seasonal variation in mortality (CSVM) in EU-14 (mean, 1988–97)
    CSVM 95% CI
    Austria 0.14 (0.12 to 0.16)
    Belgium 0.13 (0.09 to 0.17)
    Denmark 0.12 (0.10 to 0.14)
    Finland 0.10 (0.07 to 0.13)
    France 0.13 (0.11 to 0.15)
    Germany 0.11 (0.09 to 0.13)
    Greece 0.18 (0.15 to 0.21)
    Ireland 0.21 (0.18 to 0.24)
    Italy 0.16 (0.14 to 0.18)
    Luxembourg 0.12 (0.08 to 0.16)
    Netherlands 0.11 (0.09 to 0.13)
    Portugal 0.28 (0.25 to 0.31)
    Spain 0.21 (0.19 to 0.23)
    UK 0.18 (0.16 to 0.20)
    Mean 0.16 (0.14 to 0.18)

    ******************

    • Finns have the lowest number there, why? It is a fairly cold northern country.

      Finns die to infections during cold seasons, but people have central heating and good insulation in apartments.

      They also drown and/or die in alcohol related causes/ domestic accidents the few days temperature exceeds +25C. So no overall fluctuation that much.

      • Hugh said:
        “Finns have the lowest number there, why? It is a fairly cold northern country.”

        Allan said:
        “These rates range from a low of about 10% in Scandinavian countries that adapt well to the cold, to about 20% in the UK, and up to about to 30% in Portugal.”

        Adapting well to the cold includes good home insulation, central heating, dressing properly for winter, etc.

        Cold northern countries adapt well to the cold, while warmer countries apparently do not.

        The conclusion is that adaptation to the cold is the key to lower Winter Mortality Rates.

        Decades ago Canada subsidized better home insulation, etc., to encourage energy conservation – before global warming mania became the current “madness of crowds”. Better home insulation was and remains a sensible idea.

  29. Although this rates about as surprising as bears doing their business in the woods, there is still a question of what is it about colder temperatures which causes higher mortality. You are not going to die of exposure in one overnight with temps getting down to zero (which takes pretty much all night anyway so the actual time at such a low temp is an hour or two at most, followed by a rapid warming when the sun comes up). I’ve spent winter nights in a tent in the West Australian desert and it is isn’t until about 3-4 am that the condensation starts forming on the inside – and it is gone in about an hour after sun-up.

    Not sure if public awareness is much of an issue – in the UK there are exactly the same findings – despite the heavy attention paid to this in the media and by governments (exrta payments for winter fuel etc.).

    The actual causes of the extra deaths are what need to be considered – in the UK I think these have been put down to respiratory causes (both acute ans chronic diseases) where the lower temperature exacerbates something else. I can see a potential for lack of activity being involved in turning a lung infection into pneumonia – with the cold weather predisposing people with such an infection to stay in bed. But some idea of who is dying and what they are dying from is needed here – not just the numbers.

  30. Leigh Creek, Broken Hill and Tibooburra saw heavy storms overnight, finishing off central Australia’s great run of rain and storms. Leigh Creek was lashed by a heavy thunderstorm yesterday afternoon, with 57mm, including a burst of 10mm in 10 minutes. This is the biggest January fall at the Airport in 25 years of records. During the evening the northwest New South Wales town of Tibooburra, saw its third storm for the week that has brought around 30mm. This makes it the wettest January in at least 17 years. Further south, Broken Hill also gained a further 27mm, bringing its total for the week to 82mm. The reason for the heavy rain in the past week is that the monsoon trough worked its way south through the Northern Territory, before it linked up with a couple of troughs that have moved across the region in the past few days. Alice Springs has seen staggering rainfall in the past week, with 200-300mm spread across the region. This is approximately double the summer average and almost an entire year’s average rainfall. Other areas have already seen more than their summer average, including Birdsville (southwest QLD) 101mm, Arkaroola (northeastern SA) 194mm, and Taralga (Southern Highlands NSW) 260mm. Dry weather is returning to central Australia today as the final trough moves east of the region today. It could be some time before we see widespread rains spread across central Australia again. – Weatherzone © Weatherzone 2015

  31. “We know that heatwaves kill people in the short-term, ” ….Well that’s OK, then, it’s when you get killed in the long-term (in winter) that you really have to be worried!

  32. Those wusses in Brisbane! Put some clothes on. The coldest day on record was in July 2007 when the temperature droped to minus 0.1 degrees C at 6.39am. That’s not winter as many people from around the world can testify.The average winter minimum in Brisbane is 10 degrees C, maximum 20 degrees.

    • I was in Brisbane on the last day of winter a few years ago. The temperature was in the mid 30s (Celsius). The locals were all wearing pullovers and overcoats since it was still winter. The Git sat outside a nice friendly pub and enjoyed a lovely cold beer or three while wearing T-shirt and shorts kept for such special occasions. He missed the passing parade he would have enjoyed in Hobart on such a day!

    • Most of them don’t actually own any real winter clothes, the same way englishmen never own a pair of swimmers suitable for the beach.

  33. our academics and ABC are not interested in cold weather!

    13 Jan: ABC: Danielle Grindlay: Study shows ageing farmers sceptical of climate change, underestimate heat threat
    A Monash University study of elderly farmers’ attitudes to extreme heat events, finds primary producers in northern Victoria are underestimating the threat.
    History shows that old age and heat don’t mix and, if predictions ring true, both peak temperatures and the average age of farmers will continue to rise.
    In 2009 Victoria saw 374 heat-associated deaths, most which were attributed to the record breaking heatwave that culminated in the Black Saturday bushfires…
    But when Monash University’s Dr Matthew Carroll spoke with elderly farmers of one rural Victorian community, most didn’t believe they were at risk.
    “They saw heat as a positive rather than a negative and didn’t really think of it as a health risk,” he said.
    “Heatwaves have killed more than any of the other natural hazards that Australia faces … but it’s just not that noticeable.
    “It needs to be on the agenda.”
    As part of a heat research study, Dr Carroll and his colleague Dr Margaret Loughnan spent time with 26 farmers over the age of 55 in Gannawarra Shire, northern Victoria…
    Climate scientists’ predictions that Australia is facing a temperature rise of up to five degrees in the next century should therefore be of concern.
    But Dr Carroll said the group was ‘largely sceptical’ of climate change.
    “Everybody judges things from their own experience,” he said.
    “There is a lot [who believe] that it’s just big government pushing the agenda and so on.”…
    Dr Carroll refers to research that suggests Australia could see up to 6,300 heat-related deaths by 2050, up from 1,115 in 2003.
    He said a national response is required but real change will come from grass-root initiatives and localised education campaigns…
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-01-12/ageing-farmers-underestimate-risk-of-heatwaves/6013392

    • By and large a sensible lot, our farmers. Our local rural rag told us that 2014 was the hottest year evah when our crops were telling us the opposite. Perhaps crops have more brains than some academics. One ex-friend was telling farmers across Australia that they needed to prepare for the continuing decrease in rainfall and increasing drought. BoM/CSIRO data show rainfall increased by ~75 mm over the 20th Century. Pan evaporation rates have decreased over the last 50 years, so not only is there more moisture in the soil, more is being retained where the crops need it. The second half of the 20thC had ~9% more rainfall than the first half.

      When tasked with this, my ex-friend said that the BoM/CSIRO data was wrong and using all the available data was “cherry picking”. Data here for the curious:

      http://www.bom.gov.au/web01/ncc/www/cli_chg/timeseries/rain/0112/aus/latest.txt

    • At the SMH today, the resident environmental commenter states that Sydney is in “heat”. Summer, hot, no? Its not hot for Sydney. It has been VERY humid true, last night was ~95%, but NOT hot! Mr. Hannam, please stop your alramism!

  34. I would be careful of confounders in any such seasonal comparison.

    Winter is also an influenza season in both hemispheres, with the Southern Hemisphere’s winter seeding the following NH’s winter. Influenza is of course a big mortality factor in the elderly. Also Vitamin D levels follow seasonal sun exposure, and Vitamin D deficiency is well linked to immunity deficits.

    The only relevant way to assess what’s happening is to long-term follow the summer’s and see if summer heat deaths increase in lock step with rising temps, or fall with lower summer temps.

  35. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935114003661
    Seasonal patterns in mortality have been recognised for decades, with a marked excess of deaths in winter, yet our understanding of the causes of this phenomenon is not yet complete. Research has shown that low and high temperatures are associated with increased mortality independently of season; however, the impact of unseasonal weather on mortality has been less studied. In this study, we aimed to determine if unseasonal patterns in weather were associated with unseasonal patterns in mortality. We obtained daily temperature, humidity and mortality data from 1988 to 2009 for five major Australian cities with a range of climates. We split the seasonal patterns in temperature, humidity and mortality into their stationary and non-stationary parts. A stationary seasonal pattern is consistent from year-to-year, and a non-stationary pattern varies from year-to-year. We used Poisson regression to investigate associations between unseasonal weather and an unusual number of deaths. We found that deaths rates in Australia were 20–30% higher in winter than summer. The seasonal pattern of mortality was non-stationary, with much larger peaks in some winters. Winters that were colder or drier than a typical winter had significantly increased death risks in most cities. Conversely summers that were warmer or more humid than average showed no increase in death risks. Better understanding the occurrence and cause of seasonal variations in mortality will help with disease prevention and save lives.

  36. When I lived in England I was colder in winter than I was when I lived in Sweden, even though the temperatures were much lower in Sweden. Partly because English winter was damp and gloomy, while the Swedish winter was crisp and often sunny. (Glare off the snow!). Partly because the English know that their country was once part of the Roman Empire, and so imagine it has a Mediterranean climate and built accordingly. (The actual Romans knew better, and installed central heating, but it took more than a thousand years for that to be reintroduced.).

    When I came back to Australia,about ten years ago, I came to Brisbane. At first the winters were cool, but not too bad. (Yes, the houses are even less well-adapted for cold weather than English houses.) Now, though, they seem to be getting colder. Is some sort of climate change happening?

  37. Reviewing the high temperature records I can’t help but note that they are fairly old. A few fairly recent like Hobart, but for the most part they are over 30 years old. If you buy into the hype of CAGW, there should be no high temperature record older than a few years.

    • World record: Marble Bar in Western Australia recorded temperatures of more than 37.8°C (100°F) on 161 consecutive days — 30 October 1923 to 7 April 1924.

      I remember hearing Phil Jones talking on ABC’s The Science Show more than a decade ago. He said that record high temperatures were a sign of global warming. Whereupon I looked at record high temperatures throughout Australia. Most were in the 1920s through the 1930s.

  38. Cold kills in more ways than one. Generally speaking, a cold North Pacific means bad drought in an huge swath of the Western US. Global cold means vast areas of drought. As I write this, a vast area of California south of 38N latitude continues to be in drought. The Fall rains were not enough to break the drought, and now, in the height of the rainy season, a massive persistent Rex Block remains over us, where it has been since Christmas. That block is most likely due to the North Pacific returning to its cold condition after El Ninito sputtered. The SW US is in for a world of hurt.

    • One of the reasons why people die in the cold, is not just hypothermia or frost bite. Being diabetic type 2 and a son with Type 1, cold weather lowers the blood glucose in one’s body, more so when it is hot. Swimming is one way to lower your blood glucose level as your basal metabolism strives to keep your brain and organs supplied to the point you can pass out. My son was a talented swimmer, and was training and unfortunately the routine did not suit his diabetes. He had to cease training. I was born in UK, England, and can remember going to school and having my gloves pinched a lot by poorer kids just after the WWll. Arriving home with white fingers and toes. Sitting in front of the fire and getting brown marks on my bare legs. But the worse was in Cyprus. We went there on a army truck,and I fell into a snow drift. Getting home I had a severe bout of hypothermia. I survived.

      Yes Australia in the last ice age was connected to PNG and Tasmania and off shore islands. But the only true glaciers were on high altitude in Tasmania, and also maybe the Snowy mountains. The tree line was much lower and rainforests were reduced. However, the Aborigines survived. I live in a temperate moist region, 3500 ft absl, in NW NSW, our temps drop all the time below 10 C at night. And lower during winter. But temps rise during the day. We rarely go up further than 30 C. Once in a while. As they say – ‘Only mad dogs and English men, go out in the midday sun’ (From India and the Raj) Most Mediterranean and middle eastern countries, have a siesta from 2 – 4 pm.

      Anyway it is very warm today, but my brick home is cool and I refuse to use air conditioning, just a fan at night if needed. Timber and fibro or hardy plank houses are usually hotter and colder than brick. And I don’t heat my house in winter, just keep warm and with an electric blanket on watching TV in my bed. We live with it. Now I must leave and go out to buy milk or my coffee will be black. (I don’t heat my house mainly because I have bonsai inside, and the temperature generally doesn’t go below 10C).

      Cheers from Oz.

  39. The trouble with air conditioning and central heating, the occupants are turning themselves into hot house flowers. Then go out into the cold.

  40. QUT is in Brisbane, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise to the researcher.

    The old housing stock in Brisbane is wooden houses on stumps – known as a ‘Queenslander’. These have rough-sawn weatherboard externally, tongue-and-groove panelling on the interior, with a t&g ceiling, no insulation, open eaves and a tin roof. They also have wooden casement windows, and depending on which part of the giant Brisbane flood plain, are probably mostly on their 2nd or 3rd restumping by now, with all the cracks and draughts that something with dodgy foundations is expected to have.

    The other issue is that most winter days, during the day when it is sunny, is like most northern european countries summer days. So people generally don’t have heavy winter clothes, the shops don’t really carry them (unless you pay a lot for fashionable stuff). Because most of the time the weather is very nice.

    But it still gets down to cold temperatures overnight, and there are periods of bad weather, and most people have inadequate heating. Coupled with draughty houses, inadequate clothing and a ‘she’ll be right, it’ll warm up soon’ attitude, lots of people end up sick from cold weather.

    Not included in this list is the number of people who perish each year from pulling a dusty old heater out of the cupboard on the first cold snap and setting fire to their house.

    When I moved back from Europe I found myself a properly sealed house, and fitted it with AC and insulation. It’s still common to see people walking around in shorts and thongs in the middle of winter.

Comments are closed.