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Pollen season likely to get longer from climate change

Pollen floats in water
Pollen floats in water

It's pollen season in central New York.

Don Leopold, a conservation biology professor at SUNY-ESF, said trees tend to be more significant pollen producers in the spring, grasses in the summer and ragweed in the fall with wind dispersing it. He said plants do not contribute equally to the pollen profile of the area.

"If people are wondering if what they're seeing is contributing," said Leopold, "if it's a pretty flower, I know this is subjective, but, like all the rhododendrons and azaleas, think of everything that you notice in the spring blooming, if you notice it, it's probably not a big contributor, if at all."

He said as the climate changes we're going to see an increase in pollen production.

"Trees only disperse pollen when they're blooming which is for about two weeks," Leopold said. "For a lot of these grasses and the ragweed — things that can keep on blooming until frost — they'll have often an extra month of that pollen production."

But climate change's effect on pollen depends on the region.

"It's not drier here," Leopold said. "It's not hotter here, like a lot of places with climate change. What that does for our pollen producers, it makes plants more robust. They might produce more flowers. They might produce flowers for longer and they might produce more pollen."

Leopold said the best times for allergy sufferers to be outside is early in the morning when humidity is higher.

Ava Pukatch joined the WRVO news team in September 2022. She previously reported for WCHL in Chapel Hill, NC and earned a degree in Journalism and Media from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Ava was a Stembler Scholar and a reporter and producer for the award-winning UNC Hussman broadcast Carolina Connection. In her free time, Ava enjoys theatre, coffee and cheering on Tar Heel sports. Find her on Twitter @apukatch.