The Chicago Journal

Allergy Seasons Expected to Lengthen and Intensify Due to Climate Change

Photo: Marci Szczepanski

According to University of Michigan researchers, allergy seasons may intensify and lengthen due to increasing temperatures caused by manmade climate change.

By the end of the century, pollen emissions may begin 40 days earlier in the spring than observed between 1995 and 2014. The season may additionally last another 19 days before high pollen counts subside.

Moreover, rising temperatures and higher CO2 levels may increase the annual amount of pollen circulating each year 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.”

UM researchers developed a predictive model that examines 15 of the most common pollen types and how their production will be affected by temperature changes. Data and socioeconomic scenarios were combined to create this model. The data was then correlated with data from 1995 through 2014, and the model was then used to predict pollen emissions for the last two decades of the 21st century.

Symptoms of allergies can range from mildly irritating, including watery eyes, sneezing, and rashes, to more severe ones, such as difficulty breathing and anaphylaxis. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America says that 30% of adults and 40% of children suffer from allergies in the US.

Increased temperatures may also activate the grasses, weeds, and trees that produce pollen earlier. Warmer temperatures are also increasing the amount of pollen produced.

The modeling developed by the team led by Allison Steiner, UM professor of climate and space sciences and engineering, 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 research was supported by the National Science Foundation.