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Warmer weather causes allergies to worsen

Photo by Taylor Soule, photo editor

Shorts made an early appearance on campus this year with record March warmth across the Midwest. According to Fox 19’s Climate Center, nine Midwestern states had their warmest March on record.

Temperatures here in Iowa surpassed a record more than a century old. The National Weather Service said the average temperature in March this year was 55.4 degrees. Previously, the warmest March on record was in 1910 when temperatures reached an average of 51. 5 degrees.

David Courard-Hauri, associate professor of environmental science and policy, said global warming is not the sole cause of unseasonably warm weather.

“What caused the warm spring was that the jet stream was diverted far to our north over most of the winter, allowing warm southern air to move into Iowa in a way that is unusual for winter,” said Courard-Hauri. “The jet stream fluctuates from year to year and is driven by multiple factors, so there is not a direct link between increased greenhouse gases and the warm winter and spring this year.”

Courard-Hauri said the warm spring might have been a fluke occurrence.

“Even without climate change there would be surprisingly warm and surprisingly cold springs in certain years,” said Courard-Hauri. “As the planet warms we do expect many more ‘anomalies’ like this one, though they will be different in different places.”

Courard-Hauri said other changes such as dryness, short high-intensity storm events and earlier emergence of springtime flora are expected.

“Globally, we also expect more rainfall in high-intensity events, a greater increase in temperatures at night, in the winter, and at the poles, shifts in wet and dry regions, and changes in air and ocean currents,” said Courard-Hauri.

According to National Geographic, many effects of global warming are already occurring. Ice is melting all over the world including mountain glaciers and ice sheets covering several bodies of water. Rises in sea level have become faster. The average precipitation has also increased around the world.

The later portion of this century could see even more global warming related changes, according to National Geographic. Sea levels will continue to climb and storms are likely to increase in strength.

Some species with symbiotic relationships may become out of sync. Plants could bloom before their pollinating insects become active.

The occurrences of floods and draughts will become more common. Rapidly melting ice caps will limit the availability of fresh water for many. According to National Geographic, the Quelccaya ice cap in Peru will be gone by 2100 if it continues to melt at its current rate. The thousands of people who rely on it as a source of drinking water and electricity will not have access to either when this happens.

Ecosystems will change. Some species will relocate farther north where it’s cooler. Others will be unable to relocate increasing their likelihood of extinction.

If the sea ice disappears, polar bears are in particular danger of extinction according to National Geographic.

Present and future climate changes also impact people who suffer from seasonal allergies.

Brian Gentry, assistant professor of pharmacology, said seasonal allergies are most affected by temperature and humidity. Pollen and mold entering the ears, nose or throat can trigger an allergic reaction.

“These allergens thrive in warmer temperatures and higher humidity,” said Gentry. “With the unseasonably warm weather, the amount of seasonal allergens in the air will be higher and those who suffer from seasonal allergies will probably have a rougher time with them this year.”

Avoiding ragweed or other allergy triggers can help keep symptoms at bay. Avoiding the effects of global warming may be more challenging.


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