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Assessment of Health Impacts of Heatwaves in Brisbane, Australia: How to Best Define A Heatwave?

Tong, Shilu; Wang, Xiaoyu; Barnett, Adrian

doi: 10.1097/01.ede.0000362356.28410.86
Abstracts: ISEE 21st Annual Conference, Dublin, Ireland, August 25–29, 2009: Oral Presentations

Queensland University of Technology, Kelvin Grove, Qld., Australia.

Abstracts published in Epidemiology have been reviewed by the organizations of Epidemiology. Affliate Societies at whose meetings the abstracts have been accepted for presentation. These abstracts have not undergone review by the Editorial Board of Epidemiology.


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Background and Objective:

As global warming continues, the frequency, intensity and duration of heatwaves are likely to increase. However, a heatwave is unlikely to be defined uniformly because acclimatisation plays a significant role in determining the heat-related impact. This study investigated how to best define a heatwave in Brisbane, Australia.

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Computerised datasets on daily weather, air pollution and health outcomes between 1996 and 2005 were obtained from pertinent government agencies. Paired t-tests and case-crossover analyses were performed to assess the relationship between heatwaves and health outcomes using different heatwave definitions.

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The maximum temperature was as high as 41.5°C with a mean maximum daily temperature of 26.3°C. None of the five commonly-used heatwave definitions suited Brisbane well on the basis of the health effects of heatwaves. Additionally, there were pros and cons when locally-defined definitions were attempted using either a relative or absolute definition for extreme temperatures.

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The issue of how to best define a heatwave is complex. It is important to identify an appropriate definition of heatwave locally and to underst and its health effects.

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.