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Verification of heat stress thresholds for a health-based heatwave definition

Di Napoli, C., Pappenberger, F. and Cloke, H. L. ORCID: (2019) Verification of heat stress thresholds for a health-based heatwave definition. Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, 58 (6). pp. 1177-1194. ISSN 1558-8432

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1175/JAMC-D-18-0246.1


Heatwaves represent a threat to human health and excess mortality is one of the associated negative effects. A health-based definition for heatwaves is therefore relevant, especially for early warning purposes, and it is here investigated via the Universal Thermal Climate Index (UTCI). The UTCI is a bioclimate index elaborated via an advanced model of human thermo-regulation that estimates the thermal stress induced by air temperature, wind speed, moisture and radiation on the human physiology. Using France as a testbed, the UTCI was computed from meteorological reanalysis data to assess the thermal stress conditions associated to heat-attributable excess mortality in five cities. UTCI values at different climatological percentiles were defined and evaluated in their ability to identify periods of excess mortality (PEMs) over 24 years. Using verification metrics such as the probability of detection (POD), the false alarm ratio (FAR) and the frequency bias (FB), daily minimum and maximum heat stress levels equal or above corresponding UTCI 95th percentiles (15±2°C and 34.5±1.5°C, respectively) for 3 consecutive days are demonstrated to correlate to PEMs with the highest sensitivity and specificity (0.69 ≤ POD ≤ 1, 0.19 ≤ FAR ≤ 0.46, 1 ≤ FB ≤ 1.48) than minimum, maximum and mean heat stress level singularly and other bioclimatological percentiles. This finding confirms the detrimental effect of prolonged, unusually high heat stress at day and night time and suggests the UTCI 95th percentile as a health meaningful threshold for a potential heat health watch warning system.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Geography and Environmental Science
Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:82967
Publisher:American Meteorological Society


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