According to a comprehensive (305 locations in 10 countries) 2018 study, deaths attributed to extreme heat have been stable to declining in recent decades (1985-2012). In contrast, deaths attributed to cold weather show “no clear patterns” – neither increasing or decreasing.
Image Source: Vicedo-Cabrera et al., 2018
Across the globe, recent cold spells have become more and more deadly.
In the UK, for example, there were 50,100 excess deaths due to “a prolonged spell of extreme cold” during the winter of 2018, which is the highest mortality number since 1976 for this region. In contrast, deaths associated with summer heat waves usually only reach into the hundreds or less.
Image Source: The Guardian
Despite Australia’s relatively warm climate, there were about 6 times more attributable cold-related deaths (61.4%) than heat-related deaths (10.6%) during the first decade of the 21st century.
Image Source: Cheng et al., 2019
In Southwest China, like Australia, there were 6 times more deaths attributable to cold weather (4.08%) than to hot weather (0.67%) during the 2009-2016 period, when global temperatures were often said to be “the hottest on record”.
Image Source: Deng et al., 2019
Even for warm-weather India, moderately and extremely cold temperatures had an attributable mortality risk many times greater than moderately and extremely hot temperatures during 2001-2013.
Image Source: Fu et al., 2018
In Spain, the frequency of cold days increased slightly during 1983-2013. While heat-related deaths decreased in frequency during this time span, cold-related mortality has been increasing.
The authors (Díaz et al., 2019) suggest that increased energy poverty and the high costs to heat homes are a significant reason why cold-attributable deaths have risen in Spain.