Jennifer Francis – Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences
One week ago, I purchased the first asthma inhaler I’ve owned since the 8th grade. …”We’re expecting a lot of cases like you,” my doctor told me as he wrote my prescription. “It’s going to be a hell of a pollen season.” And for that, you can blame the polar vortex—the extreme cold system that repeatedly hovered over much of the United States this year—along with the rest of this winter’s brutal weather. …While no single weather event—the cold snaps that caused this year’s pollen vortex, for example—can be directly attributed to global warming, the science community is engaged in a lively debate over whether climate change is making unusual weather events, including severe cold temperatures, more likely. Jennifer Francis, a research professor at Rutgers University, argues that the rapidly warming Arctic has caused the jet stream to slow, which could result in atmospheric events, such as winter storms, staying put for longer…The future may offer a reprieve from agonizing allergy seasons. Leonard Bielory, an environmental sciences professor at Rutgers, predicted in Scientific American that a warming planet will eventually cause pollen counts to taper off. “It cannot continue on a linear scale,” he said. “If heat goes up to a certain temperature, plants will die. It will hit a breaking point.” Of course, at that point, a prolonged allergy season won’t be high on the list of problems.