Flu Pandemics Linked to Ocean’s Cooling Cycle
Flu pandemics have been linked to fluctuations in climate, and new research connects the world’s four most recent pandemics to the cyclical cooling of the Pacific Ocean near the equator. The connection? Changes in ocean temperature affect migrating birds, which are major contributors to the spread and mixing of flu viruses.
An earlier study had linked flu pandemics to ocean warming, rather than cooling, but public health researchers Jeffrey Shaman of Columbia University and Marc Lipsitch of Harvard University dispute these findings, saying this analysis relies on flawed data, such as records of older pandemics and climate fluctuations, which are less precise and reliable.
Flu isn’t the only misery that has been linked to fluctuations in this climate cycle. Past research has connected El Niño to civil conflict, and La Niña to drought that gripped Texas, Oklahoma and parts of New Mexico.