April 20, 2017
If the impact of climate change on mosquitoes and the diseases they carry were predictable, anticipating what comes next might be simple. It is not. The perturbations that cause a moist early spring like the one Dallas had in 2012, favoring mosquito reproduction, can equally cause devastating floods — like the wall of water that swept through central Texas in May 2015 and killed 11 people — that will scour mosquito eggs from wherever they have been laid. Warming temperatures that allow mosquitoes to move north into new territory may also make their current territory inhospitable. In 2012, researchers at Texas Tech University estimated that in Chicago, rising temperatures would expand the length of the season for the mosquito that carries dengue — but in Atlanta and Lubbock, Texas Tech's home turf, summers would become so hot and dry that the risk of transmission would shift to spring and fall, when residents would not be on guard. The unpredictability will increase the challenge of preparing for diseases whose incidence will also increase.