Global forecasting of thermal health hazards: the skill of probabilistic predictions of the Universal Thermal Climate Index (UTCI)

Pappenberger F, Jendritzky G, Staiger H, Dutra E, Di Giuseppe F, Richardson DS, Cloke HL
Int J Biometeorol (2015) 59: 311.

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Although over a hundred thermal indices can be used for assessing thermal health hazards, many ignore the human heat budget, physiology and clothing. The Universal Thermal Climate Index (UTCI) addresses these shortcomings by using an advanced thermo-physiological model. This paper assesses the potential of using the UTCI for forecasting thermal health hazards. Traditionally, such hazard forecasting has had two further limitations: it has been narrowly focused on a particular region or nation and has relied on the use of single ‘deterministic’ forecasts. Here, the UTCI is computed on a global scale, which is essential for international health-hazard warnings and disaster preparedness, and it is provided as a probabilistic forecast. It is shown that probabilistic UTCI forecasts are superior in skill to deterministic forecasts and that despite global variations, the UTCI forecast is skilful for lead times up to 10 days. The paper also demonstrates the utility of probabilistic UTCI forecasts on the example of the 2010 heat wave in Russia.