The impact of heat islands on mortality in Paris during the August 2003 heat wave

Environ Health Perspect. 2012 Feb;120(2):254-9. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1103532. Epub 2011 Sep 1.


Background: Heat waves have a drastic impact on urban populations, which could increase with climate change.

Objectives: We evaluated new indicators of elderly people's exposure to heat in Paris, from a public health prevention perspective, using satellite thermal images.

Methods: We used a time series of 61 images from the satellites of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) taken from 1 to 13 August 2003 to produce thermal indicators of minimum, maximum, and mean surface temperatures and diurnal temperature amplitude, with different lags between the meteorological data and the health impact. Health data came from a case-control study involving 241 people ≥ 65 years of age who died in the city of Paris or the nearby suburban area of Val-de-Marne during the August 2003 heat wave, and 241 controls who were matched to cases on age, sex, and residential zone. For each person, we integrated the thermal indicators in a conditional logistic regression model, adjusted for age and other potential confounders. We computed odds ratios (ORs) comparing the 90th and 50th percentiles of the temperature differences between cases and controls for various indicators.

Results: Mortality risk was significantly associated with exposure for two indicators: minimum temperatures averaged for 1-13 August [for a 0.41°C increase, OR = 2.17; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.14, 4.16] and minimum temperature averaged on the day of death and the 6 preceding days (for a 0.51°C increase: OR = 2.24; 95% CI: 1.03, 4.87).

Conclusions: Our results support the influence of night temperatures on the health impact of heat waves in urban areas. Urban heat exposure indicators based on satellite imagery have the potential to identify areas with higher risk of death, which could inform intervention decisions by key stakeholders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Heat Stroke / epidemiology
  • Heat Stroke / etiology
  • Heat Stroke / mortality*
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Odds Ratio
  • Paris / epidemiology
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Urban Health
  • Weather