C3S helps health experts explore how temperature and humidity affect virus spread
With each new day, the unprecedented impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Europe’s health and economy becomes more evident, but we are also getting better at coping with this virus as we learn more about its behaviour. Recent research suggests that the spread of the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) could be affected by temperature and humidity, so the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S*) has worked with environmental software experts B-Open to develop an application that maps mortalities against temperature and humidity data.
Virus outbreaks often show seasonal cycles and it is possible that coronavirus could display the same behaviour. Seasonal cycles are linked to a number of factors, with temperature and humidity being two of the most prominent environmental elements.
C3S provides historic, current and future data on temperature and humidity up to a resolution of 12 kilometres over land. In mid-March, the service asked B-Open to develop an application that maps these data against the locations of deaths from COVID-19 – the disease associated with coronavirus – for January, February and March 2020. The mortality information was provided by Johns Hopkins University.
“The application allows health authorities and epidemiology centres to explore the claims that temperature and humidity could affect the spread of coronavirus,” explains Director of C3S, Carlo Buontempo. “Whether the role of the climate is important or not, it is our responsibility to provide easy access to this information, as it could be useful for learning more about coronavirus and may play a small part in helping authorities to implement effective measures.”
A screenshot from the application, showing COVID-19 mortalities and worldwide temperature for March 2020. White areas show regions where climate conditions are considered to be more conducive to the spread of coronavirus.
A screenshot from the application, showing COVID-19 mortalities and worldwide humidity for March 2020. White areas show regions where climate conditions are considered to be more conducive to the spread of coronavirus.
The application also shows how temperature and humidity around the world are likely to change over the next few months, based on C3S data going back twenty years. This enables it to be used to identify where conditions that are climatically suitable or unsuitable for the spread of coronavirus are likely to arise in the near future.
“The application indicates that if temperature and humidity do affect the spread of coronavirus as recently suggested by epidemiological studies, the arrival of warmer and more humid weather could potentially create environmental conditions less prone to the spread of the virus in the worst affected regions of southern Europe,” continues Carlo.
“If the application proves useful to the health sector, we could continue updating it every month and enhance it with new features that authorities would find beneficial. We have plenty of free, high-quality data that could be used to analyse the spread of coronavirus. We hope that our users can cross-reference our data with high-resolution epidemiological data, perhaps building upon the application to create tools that are useful in fighting this virus.”
The application is available via C3S’ Climate Data Store, which offers lots of tools and data to support the health sector and others in their climate-sensitive decision making. C3S works with users to provide the most useful data for them to reach their goals.
*C3S is implemented by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather forecasts on behalf of the European Commission.