Xavier Rodó – Institut Català de Ciències del Clima (IC3)

Adaptation measures taken by different countries to adapt to climate change have resulted in different levels of vulnerability of their population to air temperatures. This is one of the new results of a study led by scientists at the Catalan Institute of Climate Sciences (IC3), and the Universities of Monpetller and Geneva.

The study also shows that extreme winters are not directly related to seasonal mortality increases nor to flu rises, in countries like the United Kingdom, Belgium and the Netherlands. Conversely, all other countries show different levels of response as a function of the season’s severity. Another interesting result describes the role of low temperatures on mortality rates in the European population, with other factors influencing winter mortality, like hypothermia, hypertension, thrombosis, pneumonia and flu. Not surprisingly, Mediterranean countries are those more vulnerable to low temperatures, with Portugal, Spain and Italy being 7, 4 and 3 times more sensitive to winter temperatures than central Europe countries.

The study was performed on more than 160 regions, belonging to 16 countries in western Europe, representing more than 400 million people. These new results therefore highlight the key role played by adaptation measures to environmental temperatures. Similarly the variety in the degree of vulnerability to low temperatures can serve to better identify which measures would be more effective to counterbalance the effects exerted by climate change and help mitigate the associate burden in terms of morbidity and mortality.


Ballester J, Rodó X, Robine JM & Herrmann FR 2016, ‘European seasonal mortality and influenza incidence due to winter temperature variability’, Nature Climate Change, 6, 927-930.