The impact of regional climate change on malaria risk due to greenhouse forcing and land-use changes in tropical Africa

Environ Health Perspect. 2012 Jan;120(1):77-84. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1103681. Epub 2011 Sep 7.


Background: Climate change will probably alter the spread and transmission intensity of malaria in Africa.

Objectives: In this study, we assessed potential changes in the malaria transmission via an integrated weather-disease model.

Methods: We simulated mosquito biting rates using the Liverpool Malaria Model (LMM). The input data for the LMM were bias-corrected temperature and precipitation data from the regional model (REMO) on a 0.5° latitude-longitude grid. A Plasmodium falciparum infection model expands the LMM simulations to incorporate information on the infection rate among children. Malaria projections were carried out with this integrated weather-disease model for 2001 to 2050 according to two climate scenarios that include the effect of anthropogenic land-use and land-cover changes on climate.

Results: Model-based estimates for the present climate (1960 to 2000) are consistent with observed data for the spread of malaria in Africa. In the model domain, the regions where malaria is epidemic are located in the Sahel as well as in various highland territories. A decreased spread of malaria over most parts of tropical Africa is projected because of simulated increased surface temperatures and a significant reduction in annual rainfall. However, the likelihood of malaria epidemics is projected to increase in the southern part of the Sahel. In most of East Africa, the intensity of malaria transmission is expected to increase. Projections indicate that highland areas that were formerly unsuitable for malaria will become epidemic, whereas in the lower-altitude regions of the East African highlands, epidemic risk will decrease.

Conclusions: We project that climate changes driven by greenhouse-gas and land-use changes will significantly affect the spread of malaria in tropical Africa well before 2050. The geographic distribution of areas where malaria is epidemic might have to be significantly altered in the coming decades.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Africa
  • Animals
  • Culicidae / parasitology
  • Culicidae / physiology*
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Geography
  • Greenhouse Effect*
  • Humans
  • Insect Bites and Stings / epidemiology
  • Malaria / epidemiology
  • Malaria / transmission*
  • Plasmodium falciparum
  • Rain
  • Risk Assessment
  • Tropical Climate