Global Climate Change The Exploratorium
home atmosphere hydrosphere cryosphere biosphere global effects

 Risk of Malaria Transmission

Malaria is caused by a parasite that develops to maturity inside certain species of mosquitoes. When the mosquitoes bite, they transmit the parasite.

If global temperatures climb, the risk of malaria may climb with them. The sensitivity of malaria to temperature change has been noted in some highland regions in Africa, where El Niño-associated warming and increases in rainfall have triggered epidemics. Warmer temperatures reduce the time it takes for the malaria-causing parasite to develop to maturity. This increases the odds that a mosquito will pass the mature parasite along to a new host before the mosquito dies.

Notice that the map shows a dramatic increase in conditions conducive to malaria transmission in Europe and the eastern United States. When considering a projection like this one, it’s important to understand the researchers’ assumptions. In this projection, researchers chose not to take into account human efforts to reduce the mosquito population and combat the disease. This map shows how changes in the natural world would allow transmission of malaria if there were no human-imposed constraints on transmission.


 glossary glossary terms  

Click for definitions of words used on this page:

mean temperature
greenhouse effect

View the full, printable version of the glossary.

Risk of Malaria Transmission

Risk of Malaria Transmission - This map displays the projected risk of malaria transmission in the year 2020, compared with the average risk in the years 1961 to 1990. This projection assumes a global temperature increase of 2F and no human efforts to contain the spread of malaria. Source: Pim Martens, Maastricht University

 questions about the data 

question Do all scientists agree on how risk of malaria would increase with global warming?

email Email your own questions about this data set. 

 research connection  

One technique used in scientific research is asking the question: “What if? . . .” In this case, researchers asked: “What if global temperature increased by 2F, and people didn’t do anything to combat malaria?” Attempting to answer this question through computer modeling helps researchers determine what areas are prone to epidemics, why the risk of malaria increases in some areas, and how vulnerable communities can be protected.

 related sites  

Climate, Ecology, and Human Health - A detailed and well-written article on how environmental change influences human health.

Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability/Human Health - A chapter in a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change describes a wide range of possible health impacts.

The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health - A discussion of how climate change may affect human health from the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research.

BBC News: Climate 'Future Health Threat' - An article on potential increases in animal and plant diseases.

home | atmosphere | hydrosphere | cryosphere | biosphere | global effects

about this site - © 2002 The Exploratorium