Weather impact on airborne coronavirus survival

Talib Dbouk, Dimitris Drikakis

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The contribution of this paper toward understanding of airborne coronavirus survival is twofold: We develop new theoretical correlations for the unsteady evaporation of coronavirus (CoV) contaminated saliva droplets. Furthermore, we implement the new correlations in a three-dimensional multiphase Eulerian-Lagrangian computational fluid dynamics solver to study the effects of weather conditions on airborne virus transmission. The new theory introduces a thermal history kernel and provides transient Nusselt (Nu) and Sherwood (Sh) numbers as a function of the Reynolds (Re), Prandtl (Pr), and Schmidt numbers (Sc). For the first time, these new correlations take into account the mixture properties due to the concentration of CoV particles in a saliva droplet. We show that the steady-state relationships induce significant errors and must not be applied in unsteady saliva droplet evaporation. The classical theory introduces substantial deviations in Nu and Sh values when increasing the Reynolds number defined at the droplet scale. The effects of relative humidity, temperature, and wind speed on the transport and viability of CoV in a cloud of airborne saliva droplets are also examined. The results reveal that a significant reduction of virus viability occurs when both high temperature and low relative humidity occur. The droplet cloud's traveled distance and concentration remain significant at any temperature if the relative humidity is high, which is in contradiction with what was previously believed by many epidemiologists. The above could explain the increase in CoV cases in many crowded cities around the middle of July (e.g., Delhi), where both high temperature and high relative humidity values were recorded one month earlier (during June). Moreover, it creates a crucial alert for the possibility of a second wave of the pandemic in the coming autumn and winter seasons when low temperatures and high wind speeds will increase airborne virus survival and transmission.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number093312
    JournalPhysics of Fluids
    Issue number9
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2020


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