Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America ( IF 9.412 ) Pub Date : 2020-10-15 , DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2008590117 Cory Merow, Mark C. Urban
The virus causing COVID-19 has spread rapidly worldwide and threatens millions of lives. It remains unknown, as of April 2020, whether summer weather will reduce its spread, thereby alleviating strains on hospitals and providing time for vaccine development. Early insights from laboratory studies and research on related viruses predicted that COVID-19 would decline with higher temperatures, humidity, and ultraviolet (UV) light. Using current, fine-scaled weather data and global reports of infections, we develop a model that explains 36% of the variation in maximum COVID-19 growth rates based on weather and demography (17%) and country-specific effects (19%). UV light is most strongly associated with lower COVID-19 growth. Projections suggest that, without intervention, COVID-19 will decrease temporarily during summer, rebound by autumn, and peak next winter. Validation based on data from May and June 2020 confirms the generality of the climate signal detected. However, uncertainty remains high, and the probability of weekly doubling rates remains >20% throughout summer in the absence of social interventions. Consequently, aggressive interventions will likely be needed despite seasonal trends.