photo: Truman/Creative Commons
Global warming is already making seasonal allergy sufferers more sniffly, fogged in the head, and generally miserable. New research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that warmer temperatures over the past 15 years have increased the length of the autumn ragweed season by 13-27 days throughout the middle of North America from Texas through Canada. Study co-author Kim Knowlton writes in her blog for NRDC Switchboard:
We knew already that springtime was coming 10 to 14 days earlier than it did 20 years ago. But this new work measures the length of the ragweed pollen season in the US for the first time, and finds it's getting longer as temperatures rise, especially the farther north you go. (States like Minnesota and Wisconsin showed some of the strongest effects.) If these warming trends continue (as they're projected to) under a changing climate, the health of people with severe allergies or asthma could really suffer.
Here's why I should be less glib about allergies and why this is more than just an additional inconvenience for those afflicted and a boon to companies making drugs to combat allergies:
This will make the impact of asthma worse. 70% of asthma sufferers also are plagued by seasonal allergies, which can trigger asthma attacks. Already allergies and allergy-drive asthma costs the US $32 billion a year.
Oh, and what's the number one cause of fall allergies? Ragweed.
Think climate change is still some abstract thing, the effects of which will only be felt in the future? Think again. The future is now.
Read the original research: Recent warming by latitude associated with increased length of ragweed pollen season in central North America
More on Global Climate Change:
Climate Change Too Abstract For You? Dengue Fever Could Spread to 28 US States
Climate Change Already Expanding Tropics, Sub-Tropical Arid Zones and Disease