A spatial vulnerability analysis of urban populations during extreme heat events in Australian capital cities

Authors: Margaret Loughnan, Nigel Tapper, Thu Phan, Kellie Lynch and Judith McInnes
Year: 2013

Heatwaves in Australia have a greater negative impact on population health than any other natural hazard. A mapping ‘tool’ for population vulnerability to extreme heat events was developed and used to identify areas with high levels of heat-related morbidity/mortality risk in several cities. Areas of high vulnerability tended to cluster beyond the inner city areas, with several cities showing an increase in risk along the urban fringe. In the absence of adaptation, heat-related mortality and morbidity will increase. The key risk factors related to adverse health outcomes were found to be areas with intense urban heat islands, areas with higher proportions of older people, and areas with ethnic communities. Higher risk was noted in non-English speaking homes, emphasising the need to provide culturally appropriate information systems to help migrant communities manage the heat during Australian summers. The tool was developed to provide information to assist emergency managers, healthcare professionals, and ancillary services develop heatwave preparedness plans at a local scale that target vulnerable groups and address heat-related health risks. Threshold temperatures were first calculated using mortality and temperature data from 1999-2000, then combined with available data on the local environment and the heath status and demographic structure of the population to produce maps of spatial vulnerability for cities. Climate model data and population projections were used to generate scenarios for 2020-2040 and 2060-2080.

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