What is the connection between flu and humidity?

The NASA post NASA Finds Each State Has Its Climatic Threshold for Flu Outbreaks (3/4/2022) summarizes the recent paper Spatial Variation in Humidity and the Onset of Seasonal Influenza Across the Contiguous United States by E. Sherman, et. el (12/13/2021). From the NASA Post:

Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and the University of Southern California correlated AIRS measurements of water vapor in the lower atmosphere with flu case estimates for each week from 2003 to 2015. The researchers found that in each state, there is a specific level of low humidity that may signal a flu outbreak is imminent. When this threshold is crossed each year, a large increase in flu cases follows within two or three weeks, on average.

The graph here is from the paper. The x-axis is the humidity level and the y-axis is the number of flu cases. One interesting feature is that all states have this clear ben in the scatter plot. The paper could be interesting for a stats course or maybe an independent project for students. Data availability is at the bottom of the paper.



About Thomas J. Pfaff

Thomas J. Pfaff is a Professor of Mathematics at Ithaca College. He created this website because he believes that sustainability, ranging from climate change to social justice, should be included in all courses whenever possible.

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