Friday, February 14, 2014

Killer cold, killer heat and Dunning Kruger at WUWT (again)

Sou | 4:51 AM Go to the first of 4 comments. Add a comment

There was a recent article at WUWT about some research that compared deaths associated with cold in Adelaide and Sweden (archived here).

The implication being, I guess (given that its WUWT), that the cometh-ing ice age will kill everyone, or lots of people, or people who live in Adelaide, or something like that.

The headline Anthony used was: "Forensic science reports more deaths in Australia than Sweden due to cold" but that's a bit misleading.  The press release was only about deaths in South Australia, not Australia as a whole.  Still, it's not that odd, when you think about it, that cold would kill more people in climates where extreme cold is rare than it would in places where cold is the norm.

Here are maps of Australia, showing South Australia and Sweden:

Here is the essential bit from the press release:
South Australia has a higher rate of deaths from extreme cold compared with the northern European nation of Sweden, according to new research from the University of Adelaide.
The study, by a team from the University's School of Medical Sciences, analysed forensic cases of hypothermia deaths from 2006-2011 in both South Australia and Sweden.
The results show that South Australia had a rate of 3.9 deaths for every 100,000 people, compared with Sweden's 3.3 deaths per 100,000. In total, there were 62 fatal cases of hypothermia in South Australia and 296 cases in Sweden over the six-year period...
...Hypothermia is defined as a decrease in core body temperature below 35°C, with fatal hypothermia occurring at body temperatures of 26°C to 29°C...
...The results of this research will be published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences later this year.

The press release went on to say that most of the deaths in Australia were elderly women living alone and found in their home.  Most of the deaths in Sweden were of middle aged drunken men found in the open.

Naturally that brought out all the WUWT-ers who were decrying the rising cost of electricity and gas, as if the price of electricity and gas is going up in South Australia but not in Sweden.

People in Sweden pay around 0.21 Euro/kWh and in South Australia - well there are so many plans that it's hard to be precise, but let's say around 35c/kWh.  In US dollars that would be around 29c/kWh in Sweden compared to 31c/kWh in South Australia.  None of which tells you much about heating bills.  It's a lot colder in winter in Sweden than it is in winter in South Australia. I don't know how the cost of living or average earnings compare either.

Heat is a big killer in Australia

In any case, lets take a look at how many people die from heat in Australia, compared to the number cited as dying from cold.

According to the press release, there were on average around 10 people a year who died from cold in South Australia.  By contrast, while estimates vary widely, this paper by pwc is among the more conservative and estimates there are currently around sixty heat related deaths in Adelaide alone each year (refer page 29). (Adelaide is the capital city of South Australia.)

Here is another paper that studied heat related deaths and hospital admissions during recent heat waves in South Australia.  That's excess deaths from heat waves, which I guess wouldn't include the "background" deaths from summer heat. It discusses the type of problems that excessive heat waves can cause, particularly renal failure and ischemic heart disease (the latter particularly in the 15 to 64 year age group).  Heart disease was cited as having the biggest ambulance callouts during the recent heat waves in Melbourne this year, too.

What about Sweden?

Okay, you say. But that wouldn't be the case in Sweden, would it.  Well, yes it is but heat isn't as big a killer in Sweden.  At least according to this study by Åström et al, published late last year in Nature Climate Change.  The paper found that:
the number of deaths attributable to climate change over the past 30 years due to excess heat extremes in Stockholm is estimated to be 288...
Not accounting for urbanization and the urban heat island effect would yield a net reduction of 12 cold spells and 33 (95% CI: 18, 49) lives saved owing to fewer cold extremes. The increase of the number of heat extremes would be even more remarkable with 273 excess heat extremes occurring in 1980- 2009, resulting in 447 (95% CI: 252, 646) excess deaths attributable to changes in the frequency of heat extremes. The estimates derived from the observed data would increase the excess number of heat related deaths due to climate change by as much as 55% as compared with the adjusted data

In other words, if you include heat from UHI effects, which are real, in Stockholm alone there were around 15 extra deaths a year attributed to heat but only 3 fewer deaths a year because of having not so many cold spells.  (Stockholm pop.789,000 is smaller than Adelaide pop. 1.2 million.)

From the WUWT comments

A selection of comments from the archived article.

Gary says:
February 12, 2014 at 11:18 am
I’m not surprised at all. Swedes have more experience culturally with cold and most cases of hypothermia result from foolish behavior. Control for that and South Australia would rank even higher.

philjourdan says:
February 12, 2014 at 11:28 am
Bu-bu-but! They just had their “hottest” year on record!
On a serious note. Man can survive cold (thrive is a different issue). It does take preparedness however. That is why another glacial period would be more deadly than the mild temperatures we have experienced. But that does not fit the alarmist meme.

A.D. Everard says:
February 12, 2014 at 11:32 am
I’ve lived in rural South Australia. The houses are old with little or no insulation. Many are almost ruins, which is why they are so cheap. Also, most houses here are designed with Summer in mind, with ample shading, which backfires in Winter. My mother, who came to Australia as a young woman, always said she was far colder in Australia than she was in England or Canada.

ghl says:
February 12, 2014 at 11:40 am
South Australia has the most wind farms and the most expensive electricity of all australian states.

The first part is true.  South Australia gets about 30% of its electricity from wind these days.  However I don't know about the second part.  We're charged around the same tariff as those I saw for Adelaide (we're in rural Victoria).  Not that we have to pay for electricity, thank goodness.  We get paid instead for now.

Boadicea says it's cold and wet in South Australia - huh?:
February 12, 2014 at 1:49 pm
The climate in SA is one of long cold and wet winters with shorter hot summers. 

When I lived in Adelaide it seemed like one long summer, with June, July and August milder than December, January and February :)  As for wet, well South Australia is the driest State in the second driest continent (after Antarctica). Here is the annual temperature range for Adelaide and Oodnadatta (for those who like it hot).  Click to enlarge.

Source: BoM and BoM

Here is the annual rainfall range for Adelaide and Oodnadatta (for those who like it dry).  Note the very different scales. Click to enlarge.

Source: BoM and BoM

And for comparison, here is a chart showing temperature and rainfall data for Stockholm, Sweden.  The blue bars are the rainfall and the red line is temperature:

Source: ClimateData.org

Eric Worrall says it was warmer in the 1930s - Huh?:
February 12, 2014 at 2:40 pmTry to sleep overnight in the cool southern states, in any Aussie house built in the 1930s and you will freeze your nuts off. Why? Because houses built in the 1930s were designed for a much warmer climate.
Here's Australia's "much warmer climate" of the 1930s:

Data Source: BoM

Åström, Daniel Oudin, Bertil Forsberg, Kristie L. Ebi, and Joacim Rocklöv. "Attributing mortality from extreme temperatures to climate change in Stockholm, Sweden." Nature Climate Change 3, no. 12 (2013): 1050-1054.

Nitschke, Monika, Graeme R. Tucker, Alana L. Hansen, Susan Williams, Ying Zhang, and Peng Bi. "Impact of two recent extreme heat episodes on morbidity and mortality in Adelaide, South Australia: a case-series analysis." Environ Health 10, no. 1 (2011): 42.


  1. Worrall's "Why? Because houses built in the 1930s were designed for a much warmer climate" is blatant opportunism to push an old meme.

    I'm not an omnoarchitectologos nor an omnoclimatologos but houses built in the 1930s were built in The Depression. Given that, I think that socio-economic forces were more likely to have been the major influence in residential building construction and maintenance in South Australia in the 1930s. The Depression aside, because Worrall wrote it, it's wrong.

    Verily, Eric's grandfather/s would have been around in the 1930s writing letters to the Adelaide Advertiser advising one and all that any hot weather was a sign that an Ice Age was imminent.

  2. Can Watt's get any more depraved for his ideology.

    The press release is more of a sad indictment of the social problems of South Australia, but Watt's has instead turned into a farce to support his baseless and corrupt ideology.

    The press release stated.

    ""Most of the deaths from hypothermia in South Australia involved elderly women indoors who were living alone, often with multiple underlying illnesses and limited contact with the outside world. Many of them had been dead for at least a day before they were discovered," Professor Byard says.

    "This is in contrast with the majority of hypothermia deaths in Sweden, which usually occur outdoors and involve middle-aged males, commonly under the influence of alcohol. These bodies are often uncovered from snow drifts.

    "The fact that South Australia has a much warmer climate than Sweden, with higher average temperatures and milder winters, does not stop people from being at risk of death from hypothermia. Elderly, socially isolated people are at greatest risk in this State," Professor Byard says."

    The abhorrent behaviour of Watt's and his clueless fraternity is just sickening.

  3. Interesting side note: electricity rates in Australia and Sweden are what would be considered catastrophically expensive here in the United States yet Australia and Sweden have not suffered economic collapse. Even so, if somebody suggested changes in generation technology here in the US resulting in a sudden jump of even 5 cents from our typical rates of ~11 cents it's hard to overestimate the wailing and rending of garments that would result.

    According to the typical contrarian scenario and using US electricity rates as a starting point, everybody in Australia and Sweden should already be dead of hypothermia. Clearly their electricity is impossibly expensive. In fact, to the average contrarian it should be even more clear that either the Australians and Swedes are lying about their rates or Australia and Sweden do not actually exist, for life would be completely impossible with such high rates for electricity.

  4. It's not a fluke that the "Wind power means SA has the most expensive power in the world ZOMG!!!!eleventy-one! ! " arrived at the same time as the Australian dollar rose to historically high values against other currencies.

    In comparing electricity prices in different countries one needs to consider the relative values of their currencies. The Australian dollar has been ridiculously over-priced for several years, thanks in large part to our mining boom. Recently it has lost about 15% of its value against a rising US dollar. If the Australian dollar continues its recent slow downward trend against major currencies, 35 aussie cents will shortly be cheaper than 25 euro cents.

    I expect the meme will last a lot longer though.

    Over 100 deaths attributed to heatwaves just in Victoria, just in January: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-01-23/heatwave-death-toll-expected-to-top-almost-400/5214496



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