Climate in Flux/Under the Weather; Weather; Scientific American Presents; by Baron-Faust; 7 Page(s)
The wind has different names: the poison simoom of North Africa, the bad-tempered melteme of the Aegean, the violent mezzar-ifoullousen of Morocco. Cultures throughout time have reasonably feared dangerous winds and other weather catastrophes because of the immediate effects on fortune and health: high heat can kill directly, as can rampaging floods from hurricanes or monsoons. Yet weather works less overt mischief as well, such as when it fosters the proliferation of pests that transmit infectious diseases or when it disrupts the integrity of water supplies.
The weather's power over health was demonstrated dramatically several times in the space of just a few weeks in 1999: In three states along the U.S. East Coast, weeks of drought and intense heat created ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes that turned out to be carrying an encephalitis virus never before seen in the Western Hemisphere. Fifty-six cases were reported, with seven deaths.