Could Warmer Weather Curb Coronavirus?
Depending on your point of view, we are already three weeks into spring or it just got underway Thursday. Meteorological or climatological spring actually began on March 1st. Spring is sandwiched between the three coldest months of the year which includes December, January and February and the three warmest months of the year which includes June, July and August. Astronomical spring began on March 19th with the arrival of the spring equinox. Either way, hope springs eternal and the arrival of spring brings with it the hope that mother nature may help ease our current crisis.
If warmer weather helps mitigate the spread of coronavirus the forecast has is very hopeful. The image above shows the forecast for temperatures on the first day of April. 70s sweep as far north as Minnesota and most of the country would be above average if this verifies. The image below is the long range forecast from the Climate Prediction Center for April, May and June. Most of the country is favored for warmer than average temperatures according to the CPC for the period.
Spring has sprung and recent studies show that is cause for some optimism that our country's battle with the coronavirus might get a little easier. I blogged about this a few weeks ago but since information about this new virus strain seems to change every day I thought it is a topic worth revisiting.
This quote below caught my eye from a recent MIT Technology Review post.
The news: Higher temperatures and humidity are correlated with a lower rate of the novel coronavirus’s spread, according to early research. The hypothesis is plausible: the climate’s impact on the influenza virus is well established, for example, and a similar phenomenon has been suspected for the SARS coronavirus as well.
The article points out that highest number of coronavirus transmissions have taken place in areas which had temperatures between 37 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Fewer than 5% of total cases were found in countries with mean temperatures above 64 degrees. The pattern seems to be playing out in the our country with states in the south like Arizona, Texas and Florida seeing a slower growth rate of the virus compared to many northern states.
It is important to note that the papers referred to in the article have not yet been peer-reviewed. There are many variables and unknowns that could have an impact on those numbers. The post notes that while it appears weather can affect the transmission rate things like population density, a country's response to the crisis and their quality of medical care are also big factors.
The University of Utah received a nearly $200,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to study how the virus responds to changes in heat and humidity.
A post in LiveScience said this:
Along with physicist Michael Vershinin, Saffarian has just received a nearly $200,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to study how the virus's protective outer shell responds to changes in heat and humidity. Viruses are not able to "do anything" on their own, as they are simply shells with genetic instructions tucked inside; when a virus invades a host's cells, it uses that cell's machinery to replicate itself, over and over again.
Research like that being conducted at the University of Utah should help us get a better idea of the meteorological connection with the coronavirus. Even if the crisis eases during the warmer months of spring and summer it doesn't mean that it necessarily fades away for good. Seasonal outbreaks of the flu typically find it migrating to the southern hemisphere as we segue into our warmer months before bouncing back north as our country cools off again in the fall. Still, there is at least some hope that warmer weather will give us a temporary reprieve from the crisis.