Google Searches Could Help Scientists Track Effects Of Climate Change | science and technology news

People’s Google searches could provide the key to keeping tabs on the effects of climate change, scientists believe.

Did you know that what you ask the web’s largest search engine could provide valuable information to people trying to keep up with what’s happening on our planet?

No, not searches for pasta recipes or cats in various predicaments – people’s questions about ticks that could provide key insights into their populations and movements, indicators of climate change.


The conventional wisdom of recent years has been that climate change will bring more ticks and tick-borne diseases to northern countries like Denmark.

However, the current body of knowledge about how tick-borne diseases are spread is limited.

Much more monitoring of tick-borne and other vector-borne diseases is needed, according to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – in part to measure the effects of climate change, as well as to monitor the spread of diseases such as Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis.

But keeping tabs on tick populations remains notoriously difficult, according to Per Moestrup Jensen, associate professor in the department of plants and the environment at the University of Copenhagen.

“The IPCC says we desperately need monitoring. But where the hell can we get it from? ” did he declare.

“Usually you drag a stick with a flag on the ground and count how many ticks settle on the flag.

“On a good day, we can examine 1000 m2. But there’s no way for us to go out and collect ticks on a scale that looks like surveillance. Google Trends offers a shortcut.

He was part of a team of researchers who extracted data on when during the year Danes and people in nine other European countries searched for the word “tick” over ten years.

By matching their results with weather data, they analyzed whether Google searches aligned with seasonal patterns of ticks in specific locations and respective climatic variations.

The duration of tick activity depends on the temperature.

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Prof Jensen said the fact that many tick-bitten people search for tick-bite information on Google allows researchers to observe where in the world they are being searched for and when.

“Looking across Europe, there is a very clear correlation between people’s Google searches for ticks and local temperature variations.

“This confirms our beliefs about seasonal tick patterns. »

He added: “So here’s a request: if you get bitten by a tick and you’re not sure about anything, search online.

“You are bound to discover a lot of useful information. Because at the same time, you will contribute to advancing scientific research. »

The research was published in the journal Insects.

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