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CR 38:105-116 (2009)  -  DOI:

Mortality during heat waves in South Korea, 1991 to 2005: How exceptional was the 1994 heat wave?

Jan Kysely1,*, Jiyoung Kim2

1Institute of Atmospheric Physics AS CR, Boˇcní II 1401, 141 31 Prague, Czech Republic
2Korea Meteorological Administration, 45 Gisangcheong-gil Dongjak-gu, Seoul 156-720, South Korea

ABSTRACT: The paper examines heat-related mortality in the population of South Korea between 1991 and 2005 and examines the extent to which the 1994 heat wave was unusual in terms of mortality impacts and recurrence probability. Most summer heat waves are found to be associated with enhanced mortality. However, the July to August 1994 heat wave was clearly exceptional, with the total death toll exceeding 3000 in South Korea. This value represents net excess mortality, as no displacement effect appeared after the hot summer season. Significantly elevated mortality occurred in all age groups, and an estimated 45% of victims were persons under 70 yr of age. The relative increase in mortality was larger in children up to 14 yr than in any other age group, and the mortality response was stronger in males than females, although males were less vulnerable during ‘average’ heat waves. The very large death toll ranks the 1994 heat wave over East Asia as among the worst weather-related disasters in this region. A climatological analysis reveals that the July to August 1994 heat wave might be considered an extremely rare event if temperature time series are assumed to be stationary. However, under a more realistic assumption of gradual warming related to global climate change, the recurrence probability of an event analogous to the 1994 heat wave is sharply rising for near-future time horizons. This emphasizes the need for an efficient heat-watch-warning system in this area, in order to reduce the human mortality impacts of heat waves.

KEY WORDS: Heat wave · Human mortality · East Asia · Extreme events · Climate change

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Cite this article as: Kysely J, Kim J (2009) Mortality during heat waves in South Korea, 1991 to 2005: How exceptional was the 1994 heat wave?. Clim Res 38:105-116.

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