International Journal of Biometeorology

, Volume 62, Issue 4, pp 575–583 | Cite as

Effects of heat waves on daily excess mortality in 14 Korean cities during the past 20 years (1991–2010): an application of the spatial synoptic classification approach

  • Dae-Geun Lee
  • Kyu Rang Kim
  • Jiyoung Kim
  • Baek-Jo Kim
  • Chun-Ho Cho
  • Scott C. Sheridan
  • Laurence S. Kalkstein
  • Ho Kim
  • Seung-Muk Yi
Original Paper


The aims of this study are to explore the “offensive” summer weather types classified under the spatial synoptic classification (SSC) system and to evaluate their impacts on excess mortality in 14 Korean cities. All-cause deaths per day for the entire population were examined over the summer months (May–September) of 1991–2010. Daily deaths were standardized to account for long-term trends of subcycles (annual, seasonal, and weekly) at the mid-latitudes. In addition, a mortality prediction model was constructed through multiple stepwise regression to develop a heat–health warning system based on synoptic climatology. The result showed that dry tropical (DT) days during early summer caused excess mortality due to non-acclimatization by inhabitants, and moist tropical (MT) plus and double plus resulted in greater spikes of excess mortality due to extremely hot and humid conditions. Among the 14 Korean cities, highly excess mortality for the elderly was observed in Incheon (23.2%, 95%CI 5.6), Seoul (15.8%, 95%CI 2.6), and Jeonju (15.8%, 95%CI 4.6). No time lag effect was observed, and excess mortality gradually increased with time and hot weather simultaneously. The model showed weak performance as its predictions were underestimated for the validation period (2011–2015). Nevertheless, the results clearly revealed the efficiency of relative and multiple-variable approaches better than absolute and single-variable approaches. The results indicate the potential of the SSC as a suitable system for investigating heat vulnerability in South Korea, where hot summers could be a significant risk factor.


Spatial synoptic classification Excess mortality Heat–health warning system Korea 



This work was carried out as a part of “Research and Development for KMA Weather, Climate, and Earth system Services (NIMS-2016-3100)” supported by the 2016 R&D project of KMA/National Institute of Meteorological Sciences. And we deeply appreciate to Dr. Il-Soo Park, Dr. Byoung-Choel Choi, Dr. Young-Jean Choi, and Dr. Jae-Young Byon for their helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© ISB 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Institute of Meteorological SciencesKorea Meteorological AdministrationSeogwipo-siSouth Korea
  2. 2.School of Public HealthSeoul National UniversitySeoulSouth Korea
  3. 3.National Meteorological Satellite CenterKorea Meteorological AdministrationGwanghyewonSouth Korea
  4. 4.Department of GeographyKent State UniversityKentUSA
  5. 5.Department of Public Health SciencesUniversity of MiamiFloridaUSA

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