BACKGROUND: Climate change is projected to increase the frequency of extreme weather events. Short-term effects of extreme hot and cold weather and their effects on mortality have been thoroughly documented, as have epidemiologic and demographic changes throughout the 20th century. We investigated whether sensitivity to episodes of extreme heat and cold has changed in Stockholm, Sweden, from the beginning of the 20th century until the present.
METHODS: We collected daily mortality and temperature data for the period 1901-2009 for present-day Stockholm County, Sweden. Heat extremes were defined as days for which the 2-day moving average of mean temperature was above the 98th percentile; cold extremes were defined as days for which the 26-day moving average was below the 2nd percentile. The relationship between extreme hot/cold temperatures and all-cause mortality, stratified by decade, sex, and age, was investigated through time series modeling, adjusting for time trends.
RESULTS: Total daily mortality was higher during heat extremes in all decades, with a declining trend over time in the relative risk associated with heat extremes, leveling off during the last three decades. The relative risk of mortality was higher during cold extremes for the entire period, with a more dispersed pattern across decades. Unlike for heat extremes, there was no decline in the mortality with cold extremes over time.
CONCLUSIONS: Although the relative risk of mortality during extreme temperature events appears to have fallen, such events still pose a threat to public health.
Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2013. Vol. 24, no 6, 820-829 p.