Azara Blog: Climate change will allegedly make bubonic plague worse

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Date published: 2006/08/22

The BBC says:

Climatic changes could lead to more outbreaks of bubonic plague among human populations, a study suggests.

Researchers found that the bacterium that caused the deadly disease became more widespread following warmer springs and wetter summers.

The disease occurs naturally in many parts of the world, and the team hopes their findings will help officials limit the risk of future outbreaks.
Writing in the paper, co-author Nils Stenseth from the University of Oslo said: "The desert regions of Central Asia are known to contain natural foci of plague where the great gerbil (Rhombomys opimus) is the primary host.

"Plague spread requires both a high abundance of hosts and a sufficient number of active fleas as vectors transmitting plague bacteria between hosts," the Norwegian scientist added.

Fleas became active when the temperature exceeded 10C (50F), so a warm, frost-free spring led to an early start to breeding.

The flea population continued to grow when the spring was followed by a wet, humid summer, the researcher wrote.

The combination of the two seasons' climatic conditions lead to an increase in the number of the insects feeding off the great gerbils, resulting in a greater transmission of plague.

The study showed that just a 1C (1.8F) rise in the springtime temperature led to a 59% increase in the prevalence of the disease.

It's amazing how almost every single science story these days has to have a "climate change" peg to hang off. The UK (fortunately) does not have much of a problem with bubonic plague, but here we've had predictions that because of climate change we should have warmer springs and drier summers (but we've also had all sorts of other predictions, with the weather in reality changing in all sorts of ways). Perhaps in Central Asia it really is warmer springs and wetter summers. Anyway, the research is interesting without having to dress it up in terms of climate change. And isn't it amazing that absolutely everything to do with climate change is bad, there is no good, or at least no good that anybody wants to report. Perhaps bad news is more interesting and more credible than good news.

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