Recent weather extremes and impacts on agricultural production and vector-borne disease outbreak patterns

PLoS One. 2014 Mar 21;9(3):e92538. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0092538. eCollection 2014.


We document significant worldwide weather anomalies that affected agriculture and vector-borne disease outbreaks during the 2010-2012 period. We utilized 2000-2012 vegetation index and land surface temperature data from NASA's satellite-based Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) to map the magnitude and extent of these anomalies for diverse regions including the continental United States, Russia, East Africa, Southern Africa, and Australia. We demonstrate that shifts in temperature and/or precipitation have significant impacts on vegetation patterns with attendant consequences for agriculture and public health. Weather extremes resulted in excessive rainfall and flooding as well as severe drought, which caused ∼10 to 80% variation in major agricultural commodity production (including wheat, corn, cotton, sorghum) and created exceptional conditions for extensive mosquito-borne disease outbreaks of dengue, Rift Valley fever, Murray Valley encephalitis, and West Nile virus disease. Analysis of MODIS data provided a standardized method for quantifying the extreme weather anomalies observed during this period. Assessments of land surface conditions from satellite-based systems such as MODIS can be a valuable tool in national, regional, and global weather impact determinations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Africa, Eastern
  • Africa, Southern
  • Agriculture*
  • Australia
  • Climate
  • Dengue / epidemiology
  • Disease Outbreaks / statistics & numerical data*
  • Droughts
  • Encephalitis Virus, Murray Valley
  • Encephalitis, Arbovirus / epidemiology
  • Floods
  • Public Health
  • Rift Valley Fever / epidemiology
  • Russia
  • Spacecraft
  • United States
  • Weather*
  • West Nile Fever / epidemiology

Grant support

This work was made possible by funding from USDA Foreign Agricultural Service towards the Global Agricultural Monitoring project, DoD Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center's Global Emerging Infections Surveillance and Response System (AFHSC/GEIS) under the Human Febrile and Vector -Borne Illnesses (FVBI) Program and USDA Agricultural Research Service. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.