/ Last Modified September 12, 2013

Climate Change May Affect West Nile Mosquitoes, Study Says

UA researchers used computer models to predict impacts of weather changes on mosquito populations.

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Researchers at the University of Arizona conducted a study to look into how climate change affects mosquitoes known to transmit the West Nile virus.

The study was published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week.

Mosquito populations will vary across the southern United States due to climate change, the study found.

Cory Morin, one of the UA researchers, said he used computer models to predict the impacts of climate change on one type of mosquito known to carry the virus.

Morin said he used current mosquito population data, and applied projected climate condition data to model how changes in precipitation in 80 locations -stretching from California to South Carolina- might impact future mosquito populations.

“So, if it’s already very dry and there are few mosquitoes, further decrease in the precipitation won’t have much of an effect," he said. "However, in an area that’s very dry, a small increase in precipitation could have a very large effect, because all of a sudden there’s available water habitat for the mosquitoes to breed in.”

Morin said the models predict conditions in Southern Arizona will be drier in the spring, but wetter in the fall. This means mosquito populations that carry West Nile will increase if the state sees an increase in the amount of rainfall.

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