Mosquitos get the swat with new forecasting technology

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The technology behind the OFF!Cast Mosquito Forecast

To create this first-of-its-kind forecast, OFF! stood up a secure and production-scale Google Cloud Platform environment and tapped into Google Earth Engine, our cloud-based geospatial analysis platform that combines satellite imagery and geospatial data with powerful computing to help people and organizations understand how the planet is changing. 

The OFF!Cast Mosquito Forecast is the result of multiple data sources coming together to provide consumers with an accurate view of mosquito activity. First, Google Earth Engine extracts billions of individual weather data points. Then, a scientific algorithm co-developed by the SC Johnson Center for Insect Science and Family Health and Climate Engine experts translates that weather data into relevant mosquito information. Finally, the collected information is put into the model and distilled into a color-coded, seven-day forecast of mosquito populations. The model is applied to the lifecycle of a mosquito, starting from when it lays eggs to when it could bite a human.

It takes an ecosystem to battle mosquitos

Over the past decade, academics, scientists and NGOs have used Google Earth Engine and its earth observation data to make meaningful progress on climate research, natural resource protection, carbon emissions reduction and other sustainability goals. It has made it possible for organizations to monitor global forest loss in near real-time and has helped more than 160 countries map and protect freshwater ecosystems. Google Earth Engine is now available in preview with Google Cloud for commercial use.

Our partner, Climate Engine, was a key player in helping make the OFF!Cast Mosquito Forecast a reality. Climate Engine is a scientist-led company that works with Google Cloud and our customers to accelerate and scale the use of Google Earth Engine, in addition to those of Google Cloud Storage and BigQuery, among other tools. With Climate Engine, OFF! integrated insect data from VectorBase, an organization that collects and counts mosquitoes and is funded by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The model powering the OFF!Cast Mosquito Forecast combines three inputs — knowledge of a mosquito’s lifecycle, detailed climate data inputs, and mosquito population counts from more than 5,000 locations provided by VectorBase. The model’s accuracy was validated against precise mosquito population data collected over six years from more than 33 million mosquitoes across 141 different species at more than 5,000 unique trapping locations.

A better understanding of entomology, especially things like degree days and how they affect mosquito populations, and helping communities take action is critically important to improving public health.

A version of this blog post appeared on the Google Cloud blog.

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