Mapping Disease to Climate


 Sea-Surface Temperate (SST) (oceans) and Normalized Dirrerence Vegetation Index (NDVI) (land) observed globally for January 2007: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio.

Sea Surface Temperature (SST) Anomaly color scale.Sea Surface Temperature (SST) Anomaly color scale.

Vegetation Anomaly percent color scale.Vegetation Anomaly percent color scale.

This map from the NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio shows a snapshot of the relationship between environmental extremes and a deadly disease outbreak in Africa in January 2007. (Click here for larger image.) Specifically:

  1. Unusually high sea surface in the equatorial waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans (red)
  2. Which fueled persistent, heavy rains over East Africa
  3. Which caused an anomalous burst of plant growth in East Africa (magenta)
  4. Which created a perfect storm of conditions for the emergence of mosquitoes that spread Rift Valley fever

Rift Valley Fever is passed by mosquitoes from viral reservoirs in bats to livestock and people. The 2006-2007 Rift Valley Fever outbreak spread through Kenya and Somalia, killing 148 people and infecting many more, causing costly closures of livestock markets and costing the Kenyan government $2.5 million for vaccine deployment.

Click for larger image: NOAA/NCDCClick for larger image: NOAA/NCDC 

The cascade of factors that ended in the death of many emerged from the record-breaking climate extremes of 2007. The map above from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center shows a few of them. Click it for a larger image.

Fact:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn’t fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation so we can keep on doing the type of journalism that 2018 demands.

Donate Now
  • Julia Whitty is the environmental correspondent for Mother Jones. Her latest book is Deep Blue Home: An Intimate Ecology of Our Wild Ocean. For more of her stories, click here.