May 23, 2023 - Climate

Denver's allergy season shortens, contrasting national trend

Length of allergy season in Denver
Data: Climate Central; Chart: Alice Feng/Axios

Allergy season is growing in most cities, but not in Denver.

Driving the news: In the Mile High City, allergy season fell by 15 days on average between 1970 and 2021, per an analysis from Climate Central, a nonprofit climate news organization, Alex Fitzpatrick and Alice Feng report.

  • That's based on the number of days between the last freeze each spring and the first freeze each fall β€” essentially, the annual window during which seasonal allergy sufferers are most likely to rely on their antihistamine of choice to get by each day.

The big picture: Denver's drop bucks a national trend showing allergy season increased by 15 days on average between 1970 and 2021 across about 200 U.S. cities.

Why it matters: The lengthening allergy season is tied to climate change, per Climate Central, with big health ramifications for the roughly one-quarter of Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies β€” and for respiratory health more broadly.

  • "Earlier spring and longer periods of freeze-free days mean that plants have more time to flower and release allergy-inducing pollen," per Climate Central.
  • From 1990 to 2018, pollen counts increased by 21% nationwide, with the greatest increases in the Midwest and Texas, according to a 2021 study, Axios' Arielle Dreher reports.

Zoom in: Allergy season has dramatically lengthened in several cities β€” including, most notably, Reno, Nevada, where it's now 99 days longer than it was in 1970.

  • The "freeze free" season has lengthened by at least a month in more than 30 cities.

Yes, but: In addition to Denver, Charlotte (-9 days) and a handful of other cities witnessed shortened allergy seasons between 1970-2021.

  • Grand Junction (-11 days), Waco, Texas; (-15) and Tulsa, Okla. (-14) were among other cities seeing sharp drops.

What's next: Ongoing climate change means further deviation from what was once considered the norm.

  • "We do expect that areas that haven't previously had substantial pollen seasons will potentially start to experience pollen seasons," William Anderegg, director of the Wilkes Center for Climate Science & Policy at the University of Utah, told Dreher.

The bottom line: If you feel like seasonal allergies are suddenly a bigger part of your life, here's some solid data backing that up.


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