Dengue fever to spread in 28 US states thanks to climate change

July 9, 2009
Red states are already at risk for Dengue Fever, blue states will likely become at risk thanks to climate change

Red states are already at risk for Dengue Fever, blue states will likely become at risk thanks to climate change

The Natural Resource Defence Council (NRDC) just released a report measuring the spread of the tropical disease Dengue Fever in new states thanks to climate change.

Also known as “bonebreaking fever”, dengue is “characterized by agonizing aching in the bones, joints and muscles, a pounding headache, pain behind the eyes, a high fever and a classic rash. There is no cure or vaccine against the virus, only preventative and supportive care.”

The NRDC press release states that, “Many factors may be contributing to the rise in dengue fever, including increasing international travel and trade, densely-populated communities living in poverty in many countries including the United States, and the effects of global warming. Researchers project that because of global warming, in the next 75 years 3 billion additional people will become at risk for the disease across the globe.”

The full PDF of the report goes into more detail:

Global warming is likely to increase the number of people at risk of dengue epidemics by expanding both the area suitable for the mosquito vectors and the length of dengue transmission season in temperate areas. By 2085, an estimated 5.2 billion people—more than 3 billion additional people worldwide—are projected to be at risk for dengue because of climate change–induced increases in humidity that contribute to the disease’s spread, based on models that use observed relationships between weather patterns and dengue outbreaks.6 Researchers in Australia and New Zealand calculated that climate change is projected to increase the range and risk of dengue in these countries. According to their study, another 1.4 million Australians could be living in areas suitable for the dengue mosquito vector by 2050. Moreover, the number of months suitable for transmission may rise, increasing the costs of dengue management three- to fivefold.In the United States, dengue fever outbreaks have so far been limited to the U.S.-Mexico border region and Hawaii. However, our analysis reveals thatglobal warming could result in increased vulnerability to dengue fever throughout the United States and the Americas. The findings are cause for concern: The analysis shows an increase in dengue fever in recent years in the United States and its neighbors to the south. And the mosquitoes that can transmit this disease have become established in a swath of at least 28 states, making disease transmission more likely.

The political blow back from an increase in tropical disease in the US will likely be quite significant.  A few seasons of bone breaking disease should change people’s belief in climate change, for instance.  The pressure to “do something” will most likely be focused on the CDC and private health care providers, however, and could be too diffuse to translate into stronger support for climate change action.

UKCP09 launches today

June 18, 2009

After several months of delay and some behind the scenes controversy, UK Climate Projections 2009 (UKCP09) launches today, June 18th, 2009.

From the press release:

The UK Climate Projections (UKCP09) are being launched on Thursday 18 June. UKCP09 provides the latest information on how continued emissions of greenhouse gases may change the UK’s climate over 21st century. The information provided by UKCP09 will be valuable to anyone with responsibility for forward planning in the public, private and voluntary sectors. UKCP09 comprises a package of information including, publications, key findings, user support and customisable output. This is primarily available on-line. Please note that the sites will not go live until the Secretary of State has finished his announcement to the House, sometime around 12.30.

* For access to the main technical information about UKCP09, and the full range of information and support, go to
* A gentler introduction is available at

UKCP09 is accompanied by a training programme – Projections in Practice (PiP) – and more information can be found at

What is so interesting about these projections is the background controversy and delay.  They will be some of the world’s most advanced downscaled climate projection available, but the project has been delayed due to methodological criticism and claims of over promising.

The critique, coming mostly from climate modellers and chaos mathematicians, suggests that some of the claims are too ambitious and that the levels of uncertainty are too high to produce such granular predictions.

From a past issue of New Scientist, cited here:

At the Cambridge meeting Lenny Smith, a statistician at the London School of Economics, warned about the “naïve realism” of current climate modelling. “Our models are being over-interpreted and misinterpreted,” he said. “They are getting better; I don’t want to trash them per se. But as we change our predictions, how do we maintain the credibility of the science?” Over-interpretation of models is already leading to poor financial decision-making, Smith says. “We need to drop the pretence that they are nearly perfect.”

He singled out for criticism the British government’s UK Climate Impacts Programme and Met Office. He accused both of making detailed climate projections for regions of the UK when global climate models disagree strongly about how climate change will affect the British Isles.

Smith is co-author, with Dave Stainforth of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in Oxford, of a paper published this week on confidence and uncertainty in climate predictions (Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society ADOI: 10.1098/rsta.2007.2074*). It is one of several papers on the shortfalls of current climate models.

Some authors say modellers should drop single predictions and instead offer probabilities of different climate futures. But Smith and Stainforth say this approach could be “misleading to the users of climate science in wider society”. Borrowing a phrase from former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Smith told his Cambridge audience that there were “too many unknown unknowns” for such probabilities to be useful.

Policy-makers, he said, “think we know much more than we actually know. We need to be more open about our uncertainties.” Meanwhile, the tipping points loom.

From issue 2617 of New Scientist magazine, 16 August 2007, page 13

There is no doubt that such projections will be welcomed by the scientific and policy communities.  One hopes that an adequate understanding of the uncertainties involved will also be appreciated.

Conference on geospatial science and technology for sustainable development in Africa

May 14, 2009

There is an interesting looking conference on technology, mapping, and sustainable development at Harvard at the end of June.Geospatial

Science & Technology for Sustainable Development in Africa: Partnerships and Applications

Conference at the Harvard Kennedy School, May 28–29, 2009The conference brings together members of public and private donor organizations with those from institutions and industry engaged in the application of geospatial science and technology to assess development needs, formulate responses to those needs, and successfully implement sustainable development programs in Africa.  Its goal is to insure that public and private sector initiatives that rely on geospatial tools, techniques, and applications achieve a high level of integration in the areas of database requirements and standards, methodologies, and strategies for sustainability.  Enhancing private sector linkages with government and nongovernmental initiatives already underway, as well as with ongoing academic and scientific research efforts, will help further capacity building and coordinate public policy applications across regions and themes.

Conference details here.

OECD eXplorer online: beautiful and useful data visualization tool

April 7, 2009


The OECD recently announced a new version of its OECD eXplorer [], a well concieved and useful web-tool for analyzing regional statistics. The new online geographic visualization focuses on regional and state, has a range of powerful features, and a very useful and attractive user interface.  

The data is based on OECD Regional Database, containing 30 indicators measuring demography, economic and labour market performance, education, healthcare, environmental outputs and knowledge-based activities.

The tool lets you view trends over time through animation, explore the structure of regional economies through a scatterplot and a parallel coordinate panel, presenting very compelling stories bout the statistics through interactive visualization.  You can even load and explore your own data, write your own stories and share them with others.

Mapping disasters in 3D

April 5, 2009

  Vodpod videos no longer available.

Robin Murphy from Texas A&M University (TAMU) create software to reconstruct 3D scenes of disasters from 2d photographs taken by flying unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s).

Picture this; an earthquake devastates a major Chinese city.  Rubble is everywhere, no one knows where the survivors are.  

A team of researchers suggests a new system may help first responders gain a better understanding of their environment through the use of flying robots and 3D reconstruction software.  

[The system] deploys several small unmanned air vehicles (SUAVs), such as AirRobot quadrotors, to take snapshots of the rubble. The pictures are then uploaded to a software program called RubbleViewer, which quickly builds a three-dimensional map of the area that users can intuitively navigate. More efficient than drawing by hand, this system is also cheaper and more portable than the alternative–using helicopter-mounted lasers to map the rubble.

Last time I checked “using helicopter mounted lasers to map the rubble” was still a tad beyond most humanitarian budgets.  But who knows what wonders the G20 stimulus package might provide?  In any case, it’s an interesting proof of concept that could be scaled to market over time, thus lowering the price and becoming potentially useful to combat-style first responders in urban environments in the future.

Free guide to GIS mapping for aid organisations

March 27, 2009


MapAction just published a free guide to GIS mapping for aid organisations.

The guide covers quite a comprehensive range of topics, from basic mapping concepts, through to data entry, up to issues of data sharing and representation.

From the introduction:

The guide was written to meet the need for practical, step-by-step advice for aid workers who wish to use free and open-source resources to produce maps both at field and headquarters levels. The first edition contains an introduction to the topic of GIS, followed by chapters focused on the use of two recommended free software tools: Google Earth, and MapWindow. However much of the guidance is also relevant for users of other software. In addition there is a chapter on using GPS to collect data during humanitarian emergencies.

The full report can be found here.  This is the first time we’ve come across MapAction as an organisation.  Has anyone worked with them before?  Does anyone know how this relates to the Crisis Mappers group?

Oxford researchers create world malaria maps

March 26, 2009


The Malaria Atlas Project recently finished a worldwide spatial database of malaria epidemicity.

The MAP team have assembled a unique spatial database of linked information based on medical intelligence and satellite-derived climate data to constrain the limits of malaria transmission and the largest ever archive of community-based estimates of parasite prevalence. To-date we have collated 14,710 parasite rate surveys (P.f. 14,393; P.v. 4618) from an aggregated sample of 2,979,627 slides in 84 countries. These data have been assembled and analysed by a group of geographers, statisticians, epidemiologists, biologists and public health specialists.

Worldwide maps here (warning, very heavy PDF’s).