Allergies getting a head start following warmer than usual winter

Pollen levels are already reportedly high in parts of southwest and central Virginia

Itching and sneezing? A longer than normal allergy season is in full swing

ROANOKE, Va. – Meteorological winter (beginning of December to end of February) came to an end this past weekend, and it was one of the warmest and least snowy on record. (Astronomical spring starts on the vernal equinox, which comes on March 19th this year.) As a result, we’ve noticed a lot of things blooming sooner than usual in our area.

That bloom, while pretty, is already having a negative impact on our allergies. Pollen levels are higher than you’d expect in early March, with maple, juniper and ash being the main culprits.

Recommended Videos

A map from the National Phenology Network shows just how early spring leaves are blooming across our area. For a lot of us, this is happening one to even three weeks ahead of schedule. This is something that many in the Southeastern U.S. have noticed as well.

Is this just a fluke? Climate Central has reported that the growing season (more days above freezing) has getting longer over the last 40 years across much of the U.S. That includes in parts of our area.

(Climate Central)

For instance, Roanoke has seen 102 nights in which the temperature has stayed above freezing since the beginning of October. That’s the third-most on record during that time frame. Keep in mind that Roanoke’s official records date back to the 1910s.

Part of why Roanoke is seeing more growing days than Lynchburg could have to do with two things; 1) the urbanization of Roanoke and 2) the lack of wind that Lynchburg sees at night, allowing it to cool more efficiently.

Regardless, it may be time (already) to start packing the allergy medicine with you before you head out the door each day.

About the Author

Meteorologist Chris Michaels is an American Meteorological Society (AMS) Certified Broadcaster, forecasting weather conditions in southwest Virginia on WSLS 10 News from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. weekdays on Virginia Today.