Researchers have discovered how the contiguous United States’ distribution of two of the most common allergens, oak and ragweed pollens, will change due to climate change. Your eyes might start to water as a result.
The study was published in the journal, ‘Frontiers in Allergy’. It has been found that by 2050 climate change significantly will increase airborne pollen loads, with some of the largest surges occurring in areas where pollen is historically uncommon.
“Pollen is an excellent sentinel for the impacts of climate change because shifts in variables like carbon dioxide and temperature affect the way plants behave,” said Georgopoulos, who also is director of the Computational Chemodynamics Laboratory at Rutgers and faculty at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “At the same time, the production of pollen and pollen’s influence on allergic disease has been increasing due to climate change, and this is one of few studies to forecast this trend into the future.”
Previous efforts to connect pollen indices with climate change have been limited by a scarcity of data. For instance, there are about 80 pollen sampling stations in the U.S., operated by a variety of private and public agencies using different sampling methods.
To overcome this challenge, the researchers adapted the Community Multiscale Air Quality modeling system, an open-source tool managed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to simulate distributions of allergenic oak and ragweed pollen for historical (2004) and future (2047) conditions.
The findings indicated that even under conditions of mild warming, the pollen season will begin earlier and remain longer across the United States, with rising average pollen concentrations across the majority of the country. In the Northeast and Southwest, mean ragweed pollen concentrations might increase by more than 20%, while mean oak pollen concentrations could rise by more than 40%.
Shifts in regional pollen were also noted. By the middle of the century, oak pollen levels could double in parts of Nevada and northern Texas, while ragweed pollen levels in Massachusetts and Virginia could rise by 80% by 2050.
The Rutgers Ozone Research Center is currently working on a project to examine how climate change will affect the state’s air quality. The project is funded by the EPA and New Jersey. The majority of that work focuses on the state’s battles with ground-level ozone, an air pollution byproduct from burning fossil fuels that can harm the lungs.