Assessing urban population vulnerability and environmental risks across an urban area during heatwaves – Implications for health protection

H. L. Macintyre, C. Heaviside, J. Taylor, R. Picetti, P. Symonds, X. M. Cai, S. Vardoulakis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Citations (Scopus)


Heatwaves can lead to a range of adverse impacts including increased risk of illness and mortality; the heatwave in August 2003 has been associated with ~ 70,000 deaths across Europe. Due to climate change, heatwaves are likely to become more intense, more frequent and last longer in the future. A number of factors may influence risks associated with heat exposure, such as population age, housing type, and location within the Urban Heat Island, and such factors may not be evenly distributed spatially across a region. We simulated and analysed two major heatwaves in the UK, in August 2003 and July 2006, to assess spatial vulnerability to heat exposure across the West Midlands, an area containing ~ 5 million people, and how ambient temperature varies in relation to factors that influence heat-related health effects, through weighting of ambient temperatures according to distributions of these factors across an urban area. Additionally we present quantification of how particular centres such as hospitals are exposed to the UHI, by comparing temperatures at these locations with average temperatures across the region, and presenting these results for both day and night times. We find that UHI intensity was substantial during both heatwaves, reaching a maximum of + 9.6 °C in Birmingham in July 2006. Previous work has shown some housing types, such as flats and terraced houses, are associated with increased risk of overheating, and our results show that these housing types are generally located within the warmest parts of the city. Older age groups are more susceptible to the effects of heat. Our analysis of distribution of population based on age group showed there is only small spatial variation in ambient temperature that different age groups are exposed to. Analysis of relative deprivation across the region indicates more deprived populations are located in the warmest parts of the city.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)678-690
Number of pages13
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


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