by Larry D. Curtis
Tuesday, February 9th 2021

SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) — Those who suffer from seasonal allergies may have been complaining that things seem to get worse and worse.

SUMOTO, HYOGO, JAPAN – MARCH 26: A 19-year-old Japanese macaque monkey named Monday scratches her eyes while suffering an allergy to pollen from the cedar tree, at Awajishima Monkey Center on March 26, 2012 in Sumoto, Hyogo, Japan. Some twenty monkeys are suffering the effects of hay fever at this time of the year, with the typical symptoms being the same as with humans. (Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)

Researchers at the University of Utah show that it is probably more than just a complaint from those who suffer. A new study shows that pollen seasons are 20 days longer and contain 21% more pollen than seasons in 1990. For those keeping track, that is an extra three weeks of itchy, sneezy, drippy allergy misery.

The study from the Utah School of Biological Science is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It found that human-caused climate change played a significant role in pollen season lengthening and a partial role in the amount of pollen increasing.

“The strong link between warmer weather and pollen seasons provides a crystal-clear example of how climate change is already affecting peoples’ health across the U.S.,” research leader and assistant professor William Anderegg said.

Allergies are tied to respiratory health and has implications on viral infections, emergency room visits and how children perform in school according to the university. More pollen and a long pollen season makes those impacts worse. Previous studies looked at increasing temperatures and atmospheric carbon dioxide — hallmarks of human-caused climate change — can cause more pollen, the new study looks at pollen trends at a continental scale. It also calculated the likely contribution of climate change.

“A number of smaller-scale studies – usually in greenhouse settings on small plants – had indicated strong links between temperature and pollen,” Anderegg said. “This study reveals that connection at continental scales and explicitly links pollen trends to human-caused climate change.”

The study team collected measurements between 1990 and 2018 from 60 pollen count stations across the U.S. and Canada, according to a release from the university. The stations collect pollen and mold samples and they are hand-counted by certified counters. Pollen increased by approximately 21% during the study period but in good news for Utah allergy sufferers, the greatest increases were in Texas and the medwestern U.S. Tree pollen showed a greater increase than other plants.

Results showed climate change alone could account for approximately half of the lengthening pollen season. It could also account for approximately 8% of the increase in pollen. It also showed the contribution of climate change to increasing pollen counts is increasing.

“Climate change isn’t something far away and in the future. It’s already here in every spring breath we take and increasing human misery,” Anderegg said. “The biggest question is—are we up to the challenge of tackling it?”

MAIN IMAGE: LONDON – JUNE 10: A man and a woman struggle against a swirling mass of leaves, dust and pollen as they walk through Westminster on June 10, 2006 in London, England. (Photo by Bruno Vincent/Getty Images