Photo: Marci Szczepanski
New research from the University of Michigan revealed that manmade climate change might intensify and lengthen allergy seasons due to increasing temperatures.
By the end of the century, pollen emissions could begin as much as 40 days earlier in the spring than what was observed between 1995 and 2014. Moreover, the season may last an additional 19 days before high pollen counts subside.
Additionally, because of the rising temperatures and higher CO2 levels, the annual amount of pollen circulating each year could rise to 200%.
“Pollen-induced respiratory allergies are getting worse with climate change,” said Yingxiao Zhang, a UM graduate student research assistant in climate and space sciences and engineering and the first author of the paper in Nature Communications. “Our findings can be a starting point for further investigations into the consequence of climate change on pollen and corresponding health effects.”
A predictive model that examines 15 of the most common pollen types and how their production will be affected by the changes in temperatures and precipitation was developed by UM researchers. This was done by combining climate data and socioeconomic scenarios, and then correlating this with data from 1995 through 2014. The model was then used to predict pollen emissions for the last two decades of the 2000s.
Allergies symptoms can be mildly irritating, such as watery eyes, sneezing, or rashes, to more severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or anaphylaxis. Data from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America states that 30% of adults and 40% of children suffer from allergies in the US.
Climate change also affects the grasses, weeds, and trees that produce pollen, as increased temperatures can cause them to activate earlier. Hotter temperatures also contribute to the increase in the amount of pollen produced.
The modeling developed by the team led by UM professor of climate and space sciences and engineering, Allison Steiner, may eventually allow for allergy season predictions in different geographical regions.
“We’re hoping to include our pollen emissions model within a national air quality forecasting system to provide improved and climate-sensitive forecasts to the public,” she said.
The National Science Foundation supported the research.
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