According to new research from the University of Michigan, allergy seasons are likely to become longer and more intense as a result of the increasing temperatures caused by human made climate change.
It is thought that by the end of this century, pollen emissions may begin 40 days earlier in the spring than we saw between 1995 and 2014. Allergy sufferers could see the season effect them an additional 19 days before high pollen counts may reduce.
In addition to this extension on pollen emissions, due to rising temperatures and increasing CO2 levels, the annual amount of pollen emitted each year could increase up to 200%.
“Pollen-induced respiratory allergies are getting worse with climate change,” said Yingxiao Zhang, a University of Michigan graduate student research assistant in climate and space sciences and engineering and 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.”
The researchers at the university of Michigan have developed a predictive model that examines 15 of the most common pollen types and how their production will be impacted by projected changes in temperatures and precipitation.
This is alongside combined climate data along with socioeconomic scenarios, correlating their modeling with the data from 1995 through 2014 which were then used to model and predict pollen emissions for the last two decades of the 21st century.
Allergies symptoms range from being mildly irritating, which can include watery eyes, sneezing or rashes, to more serious conditions, such as difficulty breathing or anaphylaxis. A staggering 44% of British adults now suffer from at least one allergy and the number of sufferers is on the rise, growing by around 2 million between 2008 and 2009 alone. Almost half (48%) of sufferers have more than one allergy – that is around 10 million people (Foods Matter, 2010)
Climate change affects the grasses, weeds and trees that produce pollen and increased temperatures cause them to activate earlier than their historical norms. Hotter temperatures can also increase the amount of pollen produced.
Allison Steiner, University of Michigan professor of climate and space sciences and engineering, said the modeling developed by her team could eventually allow for allergy season predictions targeted to 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 research was supported by the National Science Foundation.