How is COVID-19 affected by weather? Meta-regression of 158 studies and recommendations for best practices in future research

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Because many viral respiratory diseases show seasonal cycles, weather conditions could affect the spread of COVID-19. Although many studies pursued this possible link early in the pandemic, their results were inconsistent. Here, we assembled 158 quantitative empirical studies examining the link between weather and COVID-19. A meta-regression analysis was performed on their 4,793 correlation coefficients to explain these inconsistent results. We found four principal findings. First, 80 of the 158 studies did not state the time lag between infection and reporting, rendering these studies ineffective in determining the weather–COVID-19 relationship. Second, the research outcomes depended on the statistical analysis methods employed in each study. Specifically, studies using correlation tests produced outcomes that were functions of the geographical locations of the data from the original studies, whereas studies using linear regression produced outcomes that were functions of the analyzed weather variables. Third, Asian countries had more positive associations for air temperature than other regions, possibly because the air temperature was undergoing its seasonal increase from winter to spring during the rapid outbreak of COVID-19 in these countries. Fourth, higher solar energy was associated with reduced COVID-19 spread, regardless of statistical analysis method and geographical location. These results help interpret the inconsistent results and motivate recommendations for best practices in future research. These recommendations include calculating the effects of a time lag between the weather and COVID-19, using regression analysis models, considering nonlinear effects, increasing the time period considered in the analysis to encompass more variety of weather conditions and to increase sample size, and eliminating multicollinearity between weather variables.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalWeather, Climate, and Society
Early online date8 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 8 Nov 2021

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