Honey, Can You Take Out the Garbage Can? Modeling Weather Data for Cadavers Found Within Containers

  • G. MoreauEmail author
  • L. Lutz
  • J. Amendt


To produce postmortem interval estimations, forensic experts are often required to model weather conditions prior to the discovery of a cadaver by linking records from a regional meteorological weather station and an on-site portable weather station. Sometimes, however, cadavers are concealed within containers that will not automatically conform to the ambient temperature, thus making modeling more complex. Here, we have examined the factors influencing the modeling of weather data for carcasses concealed in suitcases, trash cans, and sealable drums. Results showed that in situ temperature modeling was facilitated by the use of additive models accounting for the non-linear effect of the time of day due to delays in temperature oscillations between the meteorological weather station and the study site. The containers concealing a carcass tended to be warmer than the ambient air and increased in temperature with a delay when ambient air temperature was hot, especially for less permeable containers. Containers that allowed fly larvae or adults to access the carcass (i.e., suitcases and trash cans) exhibited higher temperatures at smaller postmortem interval values than sealed containers (i.e., drums), which was likely caused by a maggot mass effect. The data collected improve our understanding of the phenomena affecting the modeling of in situ temperature records and of the microhabitat of concealed carcasses. Based on the results, we stress that when forensic modeling involves two sequential steps (i.e., in situ temperature modeling followed by the use of insect developmental curves, decomposition scores, algor mortis equations, etc.), close attention should be given to the first step because its deficiency limits the quality of the predictions from the subsequent step.


Concealed carcasses forensic meteorology generalized additive modeling in situ temperature maggot mass effect meteorological weather station 



The authors would like to thank B. Chiasson, L. Tousignant and two anonymous reviewers for comments on an earlier version of the manuscript; F. Gandiaga, S. Lamarre, M.-S. Morneau, A. Mourant, and M. Thibault for assistance during fieldwork; J.-P. Privé, for access to the study site; T. Van Der Brand for help with the carcasses; G. Fortin for the data loggers; and NSERC for financial support.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 201 kb)


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Département de biologieUniversité de MonctonMonctonCanada
  2. 2.Institute of Legal Medicine, University Hospital Frankfurt am MainGoethe-UniversityFrankfurt am MainGermany

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