Paris ranked European city with highest risk for heat-related death

As heatwaves across Europe become more frequent, France's capital has been listed as the European city where the risk of heat-related death is highest, according to a recent study.

Paris ranked European city with highest risk for heat-related death
Paris during a 2020 heatwave. (Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP)

Paris has been ranked as the European city with the greatest risk for heat-related deaths, according to a study published by the Lancet Planet Health.

The study looked at data from 854 cities and urban areas across Europe from January 2000 to December 2019 to analyse rates of excess mortality due to extreme temperatures. 

Paris stood out amongst European cities when looking at the impact of high temperatures on mortality rates, across all age groups. For elderly people aged 85 and over, the study found that excess death was 1.6 times more likely due to heat.

After Paris, Amsterdam and Zagreb had the next highest risk for heat-related deaths.

Experts pointed to a few factors as to why France’s capital would be Europe’s most dangerous city for heat-related death. First, the data included the impacts of the 2003 heat wave, which hit France especially hard. Between 15,000 to 19,000 people died as a result of the extreme heat.

Since then, local authorities have created heatwave emergency plans to protect the vulnerable, which are put into effect when the temperatures rise. 

However, due to factors such as the urban heat island effect, which causes large cities to be warm up faster than their less urbanised areas, the city of Paris was sometimes 10C warmer than its surrounding suburbs and urban areas, according to 20 Minutes.

During the 2003 heatwave, Paris recorded an excess mortality of 141 percent due to the high temperatures, in comparison of a 40 percent excess mortality in small to medium sized cities in France, weather reporter Kevin Floury explained to BFMTV.

Part of the reason Paris has suffered so much from high temperatures has to do with its many zinc rooftops that keep heat in, and its lack of green space, as concrete surfaces retain more heat.

In response to the 2003 heatwave, the city created a ‘climate action plan’ in order to limit the impacts of heatwaves. The goals of the plan are to shift Paris away from being a ‘heat island’ and eventually become carbon neutral by 2050.

READ MORE: Trees to trams: How French cities are adapting to summer heatwaves

The city plans to invest in greening and tree-planting efforts, among other innovative plans such as building urban solar power plants and using the structures to shade public spaces in parks like Bois de Vincennes.

Now, during heatwaves, the city publishes an interactive map to show people where they can go to cool off, along with maintaining a database of elderly residents, with regular phone calls made on request to check up on them during periods of high-heat.

Nevertheless, according to AFP, Paris “could experience heat waves on average 34 days per year by 2080, compared to 14 days per year in the 2010s”, as such local authorities have begun planning for scenarios of a “Paris at 50C“.

Member comments

  1. Also we do not want to forget how small many apartments here in Paris are. As of today on the Paris agents website there are 767 apartments for sale and 1,447 rentals listings under 20 m² in the city alone. Theses tiny spaces heat up much quicker than a larger apartment.

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France braces for more record-breaking hot weather on Monday

After an exceptionally warm start to October, forecasters warn that France is in for another day of record-breaking heat.

France braces for more record-breaking hot weather on Monday

Heat records were broken across France on Sunday, according to France’s national weather forecaster, Météo France, and more are expected to be broke on Monday as the country contends with exceptionally warm weather for the start of October.

Temperatures ranging from 32C to 34C are expected in much of the centre and south-west of the country, while parts of southern France, namely in Béarn in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques département, could see the mercury rise up to 36C.

North-western France is forecast to remain cooler than the rest of the country, with maximum temperatures expected around 25C.

The majority of the country is expected to see temperatures at least 7C above seasonal norms, with central France looking at a difference of 12C to 14C in predicted temperatures for Monday versus seasonal averages.

How long will the heat last?

Forecasters expect temperatures to drop down on Tuesday, as a cool air mass moves in from the Atlantic.

Later in the week, temperatures are expected to begin warming up again.

The hot Monday came after a particularly warm weekend, where some highs across the country were 10C above averages expected for this time of year, according to Météo France cited by Le Parisien, who had predicted that a ‘dome of heat’ would settle over France on Sunday and Monday.

On Sunday, Météo France found that a ‘string of records’ were broken for hottest temperatures recorded on October 1st. Aix-en-Provence reached a record high (for the month of October) of 31C,  while Poitiers reached 31.2C, Bordeaux recorded 32.5C and Toulouse recorded 33C.

The warm temperatures also come after France’s hottest September ever recorded, which saw an average countrywide temperature 21.5C.

READ MORE: September 2023 to be France’s hottest September ever