Role of temperature and humidity in the modulation of the doubling time of COVID-19 cases

BACKGROUND: COVID-19 is having a great impact on public health, mortality and economy worldwide, in spite of the efforts to prevent its epidemy. The SARS-CoV-2 genome is different from that of MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV, although also expected to spread differently according to meteorological conditions. Our main goal is to investigate the role of some meteorological variables on the expansion of this outbreak.

METHODS AND FINDINGS: In this study, an exponential model relating the number of accumulated confirmed cases and time was considered. The rate of COVID-19 spread, using as criterion the doubling time of the number of confirmed cases, was used as dependent variable in a linear model that took four independent meteorological variables: temperature, humidity, precipitation and wind speed. Only China cases were considered, to control both cultural aspects and containment policies. Confirmed cases and the 4 meteorological variables were gathered between January 23 and March 1 (39 days) for the 31 provinces of Mainland China. Several periods of time were sampled for each province, obtaining more than one value for the rate of disease progression. Two different periods of time were tested, of 12 and 15 days, along with 3 and 5 different starting points in time, randomly chosen. The median value for each meteorological variable was computed, using the same time period; models with  were selected. The rate of progression and doubling time were computed and used to fit a linear regression model. Models were evaluated using .

Results indicate that the doubling time correlates positively with temperature and inversely with humidity.

CONCLUSIONS: This suggests a decrease in the rate of progression of COVID-19 with the arrival of spring and summer in the north hemisphere. A 20ºC increase is expected to delay the doubling time in 1.8 days. Those variables explain 18% of the variation in disease doubling time; the remaining 82% may be related to containment measures, general health policies, population density, transportation or cultural aspects.

Ligações Relevantes


COVID-19, doubling time, temperature, humidity, precipitation, wind speed, mortality

Utilizadores Associados




Laboratory of Biostatistics and Medical Informatics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Coimbra, Portugal

iCBR – Coimbra Institute for Clinical and Biomedical Research, Faculty of Medicine, University of Coimbra, Portugal

CIBIT – Coimbra Institute for Biomedical Imaging and Translational Research, University of Coimbra, Portugal

CITAB – Centre for the Research and Technology of Agro-Environmental and Biological Sciences, University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, Vila Real, Portugal

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