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'Off-the-Charts' Pollen Counts Bring Misery to Millions
Date:4/16/2010

Recent weather patterns plus climate change driving the trend, experts say

FRIDAY, April 16 (HealthDay News) -- A cold winter followed by a sudden and sustained warming trend, not to mention the botanical blossoming that global warming has brought, has boosted pollen counts to near-record highs across the United States this spring, experts say.

All of that has led to one of the most miserable allergy seasons in recent memory for the 50 million Americans who find themselves suffering itchy eyes, runny noses and scratchy throats this time of year.

"In Atlanta, we recently saw the second highest pollen count ever -- 5,733. A level of 1,500 is considered very high, so this was off the charts," explained meteorologist Carl Parker, from The Weather Channel. Pollen counts are measured in grains of pollen per cubic meter in a sample that's collected over a 24-hour period.

As so often happens, weather is largely to blame.

"Timing is everything and, in a lot of years, you might have bouts of warm followed by cold. This year, across a lot of the country, we were cold for a long time, and then the air pattern warmed and it was like we flipped a switch," Parker said.

Adding to the problem "is the same system that's bringing in the warm air has also been blocking rainstorms from coming in, and normally, rain comes through and knocks the pollen down, clearing things out," he said.

The pollen problem is primarily affecting areas east of the Rocky Mountains, said Parker. In the west, he noted, there are still areas that are getting snow.

Another factor in the increased pollen counts is climate change. Parker said that concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) have increased in the past 100 years, and plants thrive on increasing levels of CO2. "Some types of pollens have doubled because of climate change," said Parker.

"CO2 is good for plants and they're making more pollen," agreed Dr.
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