Heat in Asturias is deadlier than in Córdoba

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heat warnings


The impact of heat on mortality rates has increased significantly in recent decades. For health reasons and to alert the population, Spanish authorities issue heat warnings. However, the warnings differ considerably. While in a southern city like Córdoba the heat warnings are only activated when temperatures exceed 37ºC, in Asturias the limit is only 27ºC.

This difference is because residents of Córdoba are better prepared for heat. That’s why they have already adopted habits such as drinking plenty of water and staying indoors during the hottest hours. Residents of northern Spanish regions such as Asturias have not needed these routines, but climate change is altering this.

Climate change and health

Climate change leads to longer and warmer summers. In 2023, more than 3,000 people died in Spain from heat, especially in the north where the ‘heat culture’ is lacking. The Ministry of Health has therefore launched the “Un verano de cuidado” (care summer) campaign, with four main pieces of advice: protect yourself, drink enough to stay hydrated, cool down and remind vulnerable groups of these measures.

Expansion of heat warnings

The Ministry of Health has expanded heat warnings from 52 to 182 areas. These ‘Meteosalud’ warnings are based on data from the Spanish Meteorological Service (Aemet) and vary by region. For example, the limit values ​​in Andalucia are between 35 and 40 degrees, while in Galicia they vary from 27.5 to 37.4 degrees.

Levels of Risk

Depending on the duration and intensity of heatwaves, there are four risk levels, from ‘Level 0’ to ‘Level 3’, each with associated measures. These range from coordination between ministries and regional authorities to specific guidelines for health workers and social services.

Campaign against climate change

Minister of Health Mónica García emphasises the importance of raising awareness about the impact of climate change on health. The campaign focuses on three pillars: combating climate denial, promoting basic heat protection measures and developing global policies to minimise the effects.

Increasing mortality due to heat

The impact of heat on mortality rates has increased significantly in Spain. In the years 2000-2009, an average of 300 people died annually from heat, while this number rose to 3,009 in 2022 and even to 4,789 in 2021. The ministry emphasises that climate change poses a serious threat and that proactive measures are necessary to save lives.

Heatwaves in Europe

In 2023, heatwaves in Europe significantly impacted public health. According to the Organización Meteorológica Mundial (OMM) and the Servicio de Cambio Climático Copernicus, heat-related mortality has increased by 30% in the past 20 years. The summers of 2003, 2010 and 2023 each had between 55,000 and 72,000 heat-related deaths. In Spain, the summer of 2023 was the third deadliest due to heat, with 2,155 deaths.

Heat record

The highest temperature recorded in Spain in 2023 was 47.3ºC in Sumacàrcer, Valencia on August 10. This was the highest officially recorded temperature in Spain for that year and it was almost a national record, which still stands at 47.6ºC, recorded in La Rambla, Córdoba, on August 14, 2021.

Longest heatwave

The longest heat wave ever recorded in Spain occurred in 2015. This heat wave lasted 26 days, from June 27 to July 22. During this period, extremely high temperatures were recorded in several parts of the country, which had a significant impact on public health and the environment.

Also read: Spain leads Europe with the most heat-related deaths

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