“We’re seeing activity well ahead of schedule in the southern states. And now we’re starting to get reports for very early activity on the eastern side of the US as well,” said Theresa Crimmins, director of the US National Phenology Network (USA NPN) FOX told Weather. “All the way to New York, Massachusetts, and Maine.”
Unusually warm temperatures have led to more than 1,600 daily record highs so far this year. More than 15 cities could break record highs on Wednesday and more than 25 could set new warm lows. That warmth leads to earlier flowering, which can boost allergy season.
THE BIG DIVIDE: WESTERN US TO SEE BELOW AVERAGE TEMPERATURES WHILE WARM AIR DOMINATE IN THE EAST
“If we have these warmer temperatures, many plants that produce pollen that is problematic for us may flower earlier than average, and that could result in a longer and more intense pollen season,” Crimmins said. “And we’re hearing a lot of reports in the southern states of pollen really starting to spike and already being problematic for people.”
WHY SEASONAL ALLERGIES GET WORSE
POLLEN LEVELS CREEP UP AS WINTER’S ARCTIC BLAST BECOMES A DISTANT MEMORY
“We’re seeing a general trend like over the past few decades where pollen seasons are getting longer and stronger,” says Dr. Purvi Parikh, an allergist and immunologist at the Allergy Asthma Network. “Because of the higher levels of carbon dioxide, the plants produce more pollen, also higher levels of pollen, and that correlates with potentially worse symptoms.”
Up to 30% of the world’s population suffers from pollen-induced respiratory problems, according to a study published in the journal Nature Communications. Authors call pollen allergies a “global health problem,” resulting in economic losses from medical expenses, missed work and school days, and premature death.
The US NPN tracks the cycles of animals and plants in relation to climate. Their network of observers and experts reports on leaf or bloom status across the country to track the onset of spring.
The network then maps the progress and uses mathematical models to predict the onset of spring compared to a 30-year average. The EPA and agencies that write the National Climate Assessment use the data.
The network’s “Spring Leaf Index” shows January and February flowering in the southern third of the country, blooming up to 20 days earlier than average.
HOW TO WATCH FOX ON TV AGAIN
The pollen season starts 20 days earlier and has lasted eight days longer in recent decades, according to pollen research. Total pollen emissions increased by 46%, and plants produced 42% more pollen during peak pole emissions.
According to the researchers, pollen emissions later this century are likely to start 10 to 40 days earlier in the spring and end up to 19 days later in the fall.
EVEN MORE SNIP AND SNIP: LONGER ALLERGY SEASON POSSIBLE DUE TO CLIMATE CHANGE, SUGGESTION RESEARCH
These early spring leaves plants also susceptible to a seasonal cold snap and frost. Crimmins recalls early flowering in 2020 and fears a repeat. She said the leaf-out in areas is happening as early as or before 2020.
“We had significant losses in crops like Georgia peaches, and even the azaleas, those iconic azaleas that graced the fairways for the Masters Tournament, bloomed way too early,” Crimmins said. “And by the time the golf event rolled around, there really weren’t any significant azaleas left.”
Pollinators such as butterflies, bees and moths are also more likely to emerge with the warm weather, she added, and can be “very sensitive” to cold temperatures.
WHERE IS THE WESTERN Bumblebee? SUPER POLLINATOR WAS REJECTED BY 57% IN 2 DECADES, SAY STUDY
The heat will linger around the eastern half of the country through Friday. Detroit could hit the 60s low, while the average February high is just 34. Nashville will flirt with 70s, and Orlando could see the upper 80s.