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Int J Biometeorol. 2013 Nov;57(6):857-70. doi: 10.1007/s00484-012-0613-z. Epub 2012 Dec 30.

Use of "Cold Spell" indices to quantify excess chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) morbidity during winter (November to March 2000-2007): case study in Porto.

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ISPUP (Institute of Public Health from the University of Porto), CITTA, Department of Geography, University of Porto, Project FCT PTDC/SAU-ESA/73016/2006, Via Panorâmica s/n, 4050-564, Porto, Portugal.


The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between the occurrence of cold episodes and excess hospital admissions for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in Porto, Portugal, in order to further understand the effects of cold weather on health in milder climates. Excess COPD winter morbidity was calculated from admissions for November to March (2000-2007) in the Greater Porto Metropolitan Area (GPMA). Cold spells were identified using several indices (Díaz, World Meteorological Organization, Cold Spell Duration Index, Australian Index and Ondas' Project Index) for the same period. Excess admissions in the periods before and after the occurrence of cold spells were calculated and related to the cold spells identified. The COPD seasonal variation admission coefficient (CVSA) showed excess winter admissions of 59 %, relative to other months. The effect of cold spell on the aggravation of COPD occurs with a lag of at least 2 weeks and differs according to the index used. This study indicates the important role of the persistence of cold periods of at least 2 weeks duration in the increase in COPD admissions. The persistence of moderate temperatures (Tmin ≤5 °C) for a week can be more significant for increasing COPD admissions than very low temperatures (Tmin ≤ 1.6 °C) for just a few days. The Ondas projects' index provides the most accurate detection of the negative impacts of cold persistency on health, while the Diaz index is better at evaluating the consequences of short extreme cold events.

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