Warmer temperatures bring high pollen count | News, Sports, Jobs

A bee clings to a goldenrod stem as it collects pollen, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, in Havertown, Pa. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)

The start of the summer pollen season has resulted in higher than normal pollen levels this year.

Pollen season usually begins around late March or early April after the trees have had time to pollinate for two or three weeks. The exact time may vary, but it always starts after a period of warm temperatures, followed by cold, then back to warm.

“Pollen has existed for eons” said Dr. Fred Lewis of the National Allergy Bureau and member of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, who operates in Olean. “Countdowns can go anywhere on the map. It is usually triggered by weather conditions or plant genetics. Our allergy season probably started this year a week and a half earlier, but it still varies depending on when we get the spring break.

Most of the time, higher pollen levels are caused by an increase in temperature caused by global warming.

“We have had higher levels of pollen in general over the past few years due to global warming,” said Lewis.

“The level of carbon dioxide in the air has increased. But, I haven’t seen an increase in pollen during pollen season in our area for the past few years.

Different levels of tree pollen differ depending on the growing season. Ash trees usually pollinate around late April or early May. The birch begins around mid-May and is known as the most pollinating tree and the one that normally causes the most allergies. Oak starts around Memorial Day and Pine, although not as allergenic, usually starts around late May, with Grass starting somewhere around July.

“We have seen a high level of grass pollen this year,” said Lewis. “There is a significant difference between what we see in the grass and what we see in a tree. Ragweed is also a major cause of allergies and its season begins around the third week of August until September when the duration of nighttime darkness begins to increase. Frost then kills him, and he’s usually gone by the end of October.

Additionally, Lewis said pollen can come from mold, which usually starts to appear when the ground thaws.

Overall, however, there is variation in tree pollen from year to year.

“There are a number of different factors” said Lewis. “It can be difficult to predict what will happen. Often it can also mix with the atmosphere, but rain tends to clear the air, unless it’s a thunderstorm, which can resuspend pollen that has already landed on the floor.

Lewis said there are a lot of factors that go into the pollen count on a particular day, and it can also depend on how well the plant pollinates. Most often it is self-pollinating, insect-pollinating or wind-pollinating.

“There are types of pollen that can travel 100 miles in the upper levels of the atmosphere,” said Lewis. “Others, like corn, can’t travel very far. We tend to find that there are higher levels of mold in the air than pollen.

Lewis said the pollen count looks at pollen trends over the past 24 hours.

“It comes from the trends we saw the day before,” said Lewis. “We don’t anticipate the pollen. I am the only one to have this sampling in the region.

For more information on pollen and pollen counts, visit pollen.aaai.org.

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