Solving the “small outbreak problem” in climate epidemiology

This is a Preprint and has not been peer reviewed. This is version 2 of this Preprint.

Add a Comment

You must log in to post a comment.


There are no comments or no comments have been made public for this article.


Download Preprint


Colin J Carlson 


Climate change can cause outbreaks of infectious diseases in unfamiliar locations — but how do we know which unusual outbreaks are the result of climate change? Scientists often hesitate to guess, leaving the task to journalists or the public. All of these audiences would benefit from a clear and consistent framework for thinking about causality, especially in situations where outbreaks are too small for modeling to provide useful insights. This review provides a guide to different ways that climate change may be involved in an outbreak, with an eye towards the often-overlooked effects of climate change on “source” populations with endemic disease. By considering the full set of possible influences – including everything from pathogen ecology to civil conflict – I suggest that scientists and science communicators can make reasonably robust statements about the evidence for climate change involvement in specific unusual outbreaks.



Climate, Diseases, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Entomology, Environmental Public Health, Epidemiology, Life Sciences, Microbiology, Parasitic Diseases, Public Health, Virus Diseases



Published: 2024-01-05 06:13

Last Updated: 2024-02-29 13:17

Older Versions

CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

Additional Metadata


Conflict of interest statement:

Data and Code Availability Statement:
Not applicable