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Extreme heat waves in Europe may be linked to melting Arctic sea ice

Posted on 27 March 2023 by greenman3610

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections. While predicated on accepted scientific findings, this  article and video include conclusions of the author and are presented to our readers as an informed perspective.

Global warming is melting the Arctic ice cap, and that’s having unforeseen effects on the world’s weather — even thousands of miles away from the North Pole. Some climate scientists have begun to link increasingly common heat waves in Europe to what is called a “double jet pattern.”

In this weather pattern, the jet stream, which is typically a narrow band of fast-moving air in the upper atmosphere, splits into two branches with Europe in between. This phenomenon causes a “heat dome” effect in which European countries are trapped in a pattern of prolonged, extreme heat. More than 40,000 people died as a result of the 2022 European heat wave, according to preliminary estimates. Watch the video to learn more.

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Comments 1 to 8:

  1. "Preliminary estimates based on Gallagher Re analysis of
    country-level excess mortality statistics, which determined totals
    by subtracting from recent decadal averages and COVID-19 spikes,
    suggested that as many as or more than 40,000 excess deaths
    may be attributed to the extreme heat across the continent during
    the summer months." 

    If this really was the case why then did excess deaths spike more in December 2022 than in July 2022 ?  Is this just a case of the cold being more deadly than the heat or is there something else going on here ?

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  2. Gordon:

    I have not watched the video. Is the quote you provide transcribed from the video? At what time point?

    The link you provide referencing the December 2022 spike generally makes no attempt to attribute the spikes it sees (in any period, let alone Dec 2022). It just reports numbers compared to a reference period. There is a paragraph saying:

    "The EU registered earlier major peaks in excess deaths in April 2020 (+25%), November 2020 (+40%), April 2021 (+21%) and November 2021 (+27%). July 2022 also showed significantly higher than the baseline mortality, possibly due to the heatwaves that affected parts of Europe during the reference period.

    The quote you provided includes the phrase (emphasis added) " subtracting from recent decadal averages and COVID-19 spikes...". That means it the raw excess mortality has been adjusted for Covid-19 (a known cause of excess mortality).

    The link you gave also includes this paragraph:

    "Please note that while a substantial increase in excess mortality largely coincides with the COVID-19 outbreak, this indicator does not discriminate among the causes of death and does not identify differences between sex or age.

    Do you know the cause of the Dec 2022 spike, or are you just speculating?

    And do you have numbers available that will allow a proper comparison of excess deaths measured as a number (40,000) and a % (the 19% given for December in the link you gave). You can't compare apples and oranges,

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  3. Hi Bob,

    The quote comes from the paper referred to in the second paragraph link "40,000 people died".  Incidently the paper was written by an insurance company and does not contain any references that I can find to support the claim.  Whilst the excess mortality LINK shows 17% for July and 19% for December it does not distinguish between Covid and other causes.  This LINK, however, does show the number of Covid deaths for the respective periods.  Interestingly, the deaths from Covid in July were higher than in December.  It is well known that more people die during cold periods than during warm (as demonstrated here), however, I believe the main driver behind these increases is energy poverty.

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  4. Gordon:

    I am still not finding the quote you provided in comment #1 in your link in comment #1 (repeated in comment #3). The word "heat " only appears on that page once, and it is in the text that I quoted in comment #2. The second link that you provided in comment #3 does not contain the word "heat" at all (letting my browser search for it).

    Please check your sources and given a proper reference/source for the quote. To understand the quote, we need more information about context and methodology.

    Your second link does provide Covid-related deaths in raw numbers, but does not let us determine how to transform that into "excess mortality" as a percent - we need to know both a numerator and a denominator to be able to calculate percent.

    As for your closing statement about energy poverty, you are going to have to define what you mean by that term and provide some supporting data/information if you want us to think it is anything more than a belief on your part.

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  5. Bob:

    Here is the LINK to the quote in comment#1.

    Energy poverty is defined as such:

    Energy poverty occurs when energy bills represent a high percentage of consumers’ income, or when they must reduce their household's energy consumption to a degree that negatively impacts their health and well-being."

    A simple example supporting my belief can be found by comparing the MAP in this article with the MAP in this one.  Note that Germany's situation has deteriorated substantially since 2020 due to the war and loss of Nordstream.  You can find the MAP for July here by selecting the the appropriate time series on the top left hand corner.

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  6. Thanks for the link, Gordon. For future reference, when you provide a quote like that one, it really helps if you give a proper link to the source, rather than leaving people guessing.

    I can find that quote on page 22. There is very little context there. They repeat the 40,000 number on page 37, where they say:

    Gallagher Re estimates that as many as or more than 40,000 excess deaths were recorded between June and August from heat-related activity in the region, which particularly hit the UK, France, Spain and Portugal. This was conducted based on national-level mortality analysis.

    and then again in the appendix tables on page 52. In none of those cases do they provide any further details on the analysis method.

    Without details on the analysis method, there isn't much hope in trying to come up with an explanation of why they attribute European summer deaths to heat, and other spikes are attributed to other causes. The original quote you provided does state that this was a "preliminary estimate", which suggests that it was not as thorough as they would like.

    You may wish to read this Reaclimate post on heat-deaths vs cold-deaths under a warming climate. It mentions that winter mortality rates in Europe are normally higher - but hopefully an "excess mortality" assessment would take this into account.

    The Eurostat link in comment #1 does not tell us if the 19% "sharp rise" in December 2022 is within a normal range of variability for December, and it does not tell us if they use individual monthly averages for each "excess death" calculation, or an average over several months, a full year, or several years. The quote I gave in comment #2 contains values for four other peaks in the past three years - two in April, and two in November. That suggests that they might not be making monthly base/reference calculations - but it's really hard to tell.

    Methodology is critically important in these sorts of calculations.

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  7. Now that I am looking at the maps that you mention regarding the "energy poverty" issue, it looks like that December high mortality rate is in reference to the 2016-2019 average. The way they worded that suggests that they have not adjusted for seasonal patterns, which makes it very difficult to tell if the December 2022 value is really an unusual case, or just a normal seasonal effect.

    As for the similarity between the "can't keep the home warm" and the "Dec 2022 excess mortality" maps - I am not seeing a strong link. Norway and Finland score high on the excess deaths map, but they are in the lowest category for "problems heating". Switzerland and Austria also show a similar pattern. Romania and Bulgaria are the opposite: they score very low on excess deaths, but are in the highest two categories for "unable to heat the home". The geography of Europe suggests that some countries may be much better prepared for heating in the cold season. There are a lot of variables involved.

    Your definition of energy poverty also seems rather vague. There are a multitude of levels of "negatively affect", and "health and well-being" also covers an awful lot of ground.

    And finally - this is really getting off-topic for the blog post.

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  8. Gordon and Bob,

    I agree that discussing 'energy poverty' is getting off-topic. But raising the related problem of 'energy gluttony' seems appropriate, because 'harmful energy gluttony' is a major root of the climate impact problem.

    All I will add is that 'energy gluttony' can be understood to be a major aggravating factor regarding 'energy poverty'.

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