There is extensive literature that links extreme temperatures with an increase in mortality rates. In Portugal, data has shown an increase in mortality rates during cold winters and sharp mortality peaks in years with heatwaves but can we prospectively predict the impact that weather events may have on health?
In Portugal, the national government formulates the developing and publishing of Cold Weather and Heat Plans. These plans play an important role in devising preventive measures to mitigate the health risks associated with extreme weather. However, in case of frequent extreme temperatures, both in the short- and long-term, this system does not suffice on its own. Including projections from Global Climate Models (GCM) and Regional Climate Models (RCM) in national alert systems would be not only an asset in terms of the short- and long-term of extreme weather events, but also a valuable tool for mitigating the effects of climate change across Portugal as a whole.
In our study, we developed different statistical models to assess the relationship between circulatory disease mortality and temperature. We used a distributed-lag model specific to Portuguese metropolitan areas and a method of validation through climate simulations. This can be used as a reference for subsequent studies that address future climate change scenarios on mortality risk in Lisbon and Porto metropolitan areas.
We believe that adequate communication strategies and timely response capabilities would be more effective if climate models were implemented and included (on a global or regional scale). This is particularly relevant to the prevention programs established by health authorities in Portugal as warning systems could allow health authorities and urban planners enough time to update climate adaptation plans.
Projections of climate change health impacts under different climate futures would allow a better resource management in warning systems at a national level, and with primary healthcare providers at a local level.