A vast tract of land from New York to L.A. has summertime conditions ideal for virus-carrying mosquitoes.

Soldiers fumigated a neighborhood in Havana, Cuba, on Tuesday in an attempt to slow the spread of the Zika virus. (Desmond Boylan/AP)

As the Zika virus spreads from hotbeds in the Caribbean and Latin America, where might it possibly find a home in the United States?

The grim answer is that during summers, the mosquito that transmits the virus—Aedes aegypti—could buzz in a vast tract of land from New York to Miami to L.A., according to a new study from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, NASA, and others. Even during winter, it will be able to tolerate the weather in southern cities like Tampa, Miami, Orlando, and Brownsville, Texas.

The dreaded insect will “likely become increasingly abundant across much of the southern and eastern United States as the weather warms,” the researchers say in a press release. Here’s more:

By analyzing travel patterns from countries and territories with Zika outbreaks, the research team further concluded that cities in southern Florida and impoverished areas in southern Texas may be particularly vulnerable to local virus transmission....

Although the study does not include a specific prediction for this year, the authors note that long-range forecasts for this summer point to a 40-45 percent chance of warmer-than-average temperatures over most of the continental United States.

[NCAR’s Andrew] Monaghan said this could lead to increased suitability for Aedes aegypti in much of the South and East, although above-normal temperatures would be less favorable for the species in the hottest regions of Texas, Arizona and California.

Using computer simulations, the researchers mapped 50 cities that could become breeding grounds for Aedes aegypti. There’s a bit to take in here, so here’s a quick guide: Orange and red hues indicate “moderate” and “high” possible abundances of mosquitoes, with the top half of each circle meaning during the winter and the bottom summer. The gray-shaded area is the estimated known range of Aedes aegypti, while the dotted line is the approximate range of Aedes albopictus, a different mosquito that might also start carrying the virus.

NCAR

And these maps show the possible abundance of Aedes aegypti broken down by month:

NCAR

Before anyone starts building a 10 Cloverfield Lane-style apocalypse shelter, the researchers qualify that if the virus does gain ground in the U.S., it probably won’t spread at the rate it has in other countries. That’s because many people here live and work in sealed, temperature-controlled buildings, and are less exposed to mosquitoes.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. photo: A Lyft scooter on the streets of Oakland in July.
    Transportation

    4 Predictions for the Electric Scooter Industry

    Dockless e-scooters swept cities worldwide in 2018 and 2019. In 2020, expect the battery-powered micromobility revolution to take a new direction.

  2. Life

    The Cities Americans Want to Flee, and Where They Want to Go

    An Apartment List report reveals the cities apartment-hunters are targeting for their next move—and shows that tales of a California exodus may be overstated.

  3. photo: a pair of homes in Pittsburgh
    Equity

    The House Flippers of Pittsburgh Try a New Tactic

    As the city’s real estate market heats up, neighborhood groups say that cash investors use building code violations to encourage homeowners to sell.  

  4. Perspective

    Why Car-Free Streets Will Soon Be the Norm

    In cities like New York, Paris, Rotterdam, and soon San Francisco, car-free streets are emerging amid a growing movement.

  5. Life

    Can Toyota Turn Its Utopian Ideal Into a 'Real City'?

    The automaker-turned-mobility-company announced last week it wants to build a living, breathing urban laboratory from the ground up in Japan.

×