Seasonal change is a big deal for life on Earth. Take humans for example. As we go from winter to spring we bid adieu to flu season and in turn say hello to allergy season! Turns out that allergy seasons are getting worse here in Richmond, VA, and no surprise – it involves our changing local climate. So, is pollen season happening earlier? Listen to this Question Your World radio report produced by the Science Museum of Virginia to find out.
Over the years you may have noticed that some of your sneezy days and watery eyes may be happening earlier than you recall from the past. Recently published data shows that Richmond’s winter is shortening faster than in most cities on the US east coast – and this is a direct symptom of climate change happening right here at home.
This means a few things for us. Earlier springtime temperatures mean trading in those sweaters and scarves for flippies and Chacos sooner in the year. But, earlier springtime temperatures along with the right amount of rainfall also mean an earlier onset of the allergens that make us wheeze and sneeze!
Data collected over the last thirty years show that our tree pollen extremes have been moving earlier in the spring and they’re getting more intense, making many people’s symptoms worse. But wait, there’s more, our grass pollen season too is occurring earlier, even more than the tree pollen season! A very noticeable reminder that as the climate changes it impacts many life processes of plants and animals.
So, what can we do with all this information? Well, we can use it to better prepare for this year’s allergy season! Replacing our HEPA filters at home, recirculating indoor air on high pollen days, washing our clothes and pets down after outdoor activities, and starting our medications earlier are ways to become resilient to our earlier springtime pollen season!
Information like this is being studied by smart men and women all year round. While spring time allergens may be an issue for these warming days, the impacts of our climate can be felt everywhere all year long. Being able to stay on top of these upcoming climate occurrences will only help communities be stronger and more resilient to extreme weather's impacts.
From wetter winters to pollen filled springs, scientists are here to help us better understand the natural world that surrounds us. Using this data and being prepared is a great way for us to use science and it could make your spring time less a-pollen.