With spring in full swing, there's much to enjoy about
sunny days and warmer temperatures. But this time of year also
brings the hay fever season, when itchy eyes and sneezing beset
18 million people in the UK.
Now a new study suggests a warming climate means worse
may be on the way. The culprit is the common ragweed, an invasive
species that's expanding across Europe with unpleasant consequences
for hay fever sufferers.
What is ragweed?
ragweed is a green, leafy plant that is native to North
America but has taken root in Europe, Australia, East Asia and
South America since the end of the 19th century.
Ragweed typically grows around farmland and
construction sites, and along riverbanks and railway embankments.
It flowers through the summer and into the autumn and produces
large amounts of pollen, which can be carried by the wind from one
country to another.
The UK is currently a bit too cold for the plant to
flourish. And while ragweed pollen is blown over from Europe, it's
rarely in high enough quantities to cause hay fever symptoms.
But that could be set to change. New research,
published in Nature
Climate Change, estimates the amount of ragweed
pollen in the air across Europe will be four times higher by 2050.
And it could even be as much as 12 times higher, the study
This means a lot more ragweed pollen
reaching the UK, the researchers say.
The study is part of a Europe-wide project on
how changes in climate, land use and air pollution will affect the
spread of pollen and its impact on human health.