Demographic yearbooks as a source of weather-related fatalities: The Czech Republic, 1919–2022
Abstract. Demographic yearbooks of the Czech Republic, prepared by the Czech Statistical Office for the period 1919–2022, contain official figures for the number, gender, and age of fatalities attributed to excessive natural cold, excessive natural heat, lightning, natural disasters, air pressure changes, and falls on ice or snow, covering a 104-year period or its parts. These yearbooks, influenced by evolving international classifications of diseases, tend to underestimate the fatality numbers for excessive natural heat, natural disasters, and especially air pressure changes. Out of a total of 9,259 weather-related fatalities (with a mean annual rate of 89.0 fatalities), 74.9 % were caused by excessive natural cold and 19.3 % by lightning. Except for a zero linear trend in natural disasters, statistically significant decreasing trends were found for lightning fatalities, and increasing trends for excessive natural cold, excessive natural heat, and falls on ice or snow. Males and seniors aged ≥65 years were the most common gender and age categories affected. The number of fatalities attributed to excessive natural cold has partly increased as a result of the gradually aging population and the rise in the number of homeless people since the 1990s. A statistically significant relationship between cold-related fatalities and mean January–February and winter (December–February) temperatures was established, evidenced by high negative correlation coefficients. Lightning deaths have notably decreased since the 1970s, primarily due to a significant reduction in the number of people employed in agriculture, an increase in urban population, better weather forecasting, lifestyle changes, and improved medical care. Although there is a significant positive correlation between these fatalities and the number of days with thunderstorms, the relationship is relatively weak. The results obtained for the Czech Republic align well with similar studies in Europe and elsewhere. While the demographic yearbooks cover only a part of weather-related fatalities, their circumstances, and characteristics, combining them with other similar databases is crucial to gain necessary knowledge usable in risk management for the preservation of human lives.
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