Applications of a climatic water budget to tick-borne disease research

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Tools initially developed for analyzing climate or the environment are often used subsequently by scientists in more applied areas of research. The Thornthwaite-Mather (T-M) water budget equation was primarily developed to calculate a water budget, which, of course, had obvious uses for irrigation purposes. But John Russell Mather hoped his work would be used in a variety of applications, and fortunately he lived to see it used even by his son in the arena of vector-borne diseases. Our team is screening various climatic and environmental variables to identify relevant determinants of tick abundance in an effort to predict levels of disease risk both spatially and temporally in the northeastern United States. Identifying relevant climatic and environmental variables delimiting tick habitat at a high resolution has led us to consider a variety of tools designed for environmental applications. We used the Thornthwaite-Mather water budget technique to predict soil moisture under forest canopies, the primary habitat for the tick vectors of Lyme disease bacteria. To date, the exact controls of spatio-temporal tick distribution are not yet confirmed, but we now believe that whichever variables are shown to most precisely delimit the extent of tick distributions over large areas can be identified by vegetation and other moisture-based variables using satellite sensor data. Copyright © 2005 by V. H. Winston & Son, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Physical Geography