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Warmer climate implies longer pollen season

Global climate change is a touchy subject, no matter where you go. The truth of the matter is this - the earth is warming. There is no doubt about that. Where we still find folks debating, arguing, etc. is a) did humans cause this or not and b) what should we do, if anything, to help slow the process down?

We're not writing this to get into the debate. We're simply stating facts, backed by sound research within the scientific community. Before we show you those facts, it's important that we realize the difference between weather and climate. The fact that it's cold today in the Tri-Cities doesn't debunk global climate change. At the same time, it's irresponsible to use a 98° day in June to prove that global climate change exists. Weather refers to day-to-day atmospheric behavior, whereas climate refers to the long-term trends.

The folks at Climate Central have shown that a warming climate means a longer pollen season, citing the dramatic rise in carbon dioxide levels. It has been proven that more carbon dioxide leads to a warming Earth. The chemical structure of carbon dioxide means that incoming solar radiation can be absorbed more efficiently. Without greenhouse gases, the earth's average temperature would be near 0°F as opposed to the current average of 59°F. Too much absorption of solar radiation means a warming climate.

(Photo below obtained from NASA's Global Climate Change website.)

More carbon dioxide enhances photosynthesis, which means that plants produce more pollen. More pollen triggers allergies and can be dangerous to those who suffer from asthma.

Research done by Climate Central shows how much the growing season has...well...grown! We see much longer growing seasons in the western US.

Here in the Tri-Cities, I did a little research of my own. We have 80 years of temperature data, so I split those 80 years into two.

In the first 40 years (1938-1977), our average growing season lasted 185.4 days. This is the length from the last spring freeze to the first fall freeze. In the last 40 years (1978-2017), our average growing season lasted 185.9 days. You can see, by those numbers, that there's been very little change.

A similar trend is noted in Climate Central's research since 1970 (shown below).


Why should we care? With the earth's climate projected to continue warming, we may begin to feel more local effects. In the last ten years, eight of those years have had longer growing seasons - implying a longer pollen season.

StormTrack 5 meteorologist David Boyd made this graphic to show how pollen levels moderate the next few days. A rainy (and snowy for some) beginning to the day Saturday should keep pollen levels fairly low.


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