Allergy sufferers may be rejoicing at the delay to Spring as they experience some relief from their usual symptoms of sniffling and sneezing at this time of year.The long, cold winter we have just experienced means that trees are still lying dormant thus holding on to the airborne pollen that curses allergy sufferers. The Washington Post is warning allergy sufferers to prepare for what they are calling the “pollen vortex” as delayed trees and grass pollinate all at once.
How bad will it be? Well it all depends on how quickly it gets warm. Trees need several days of temperatures above 6 degrees C to start pumping out their pollen. Pollen usually arrives in waves from different trees and grasses. Poplars, maples and elms are the early bloomers which have been delayed. Pines oaks and ash trees arrive later and may not be affected. The result is that the pollen count will be much higher as more species of trees release their pollen at the same time.
The devastating ice storms that passed through much of the northern US and Canada toppled or injured an estimated 20% of the urban forest. Will that reduce the pollen count? Maybe! Toppled, dead trees will not release pollen but injured trees actually compensate by producing more pollen as a last ditch effort for survival.
This winter may be just a sign of things to come for allergy sufferers. Climate change causing long term weather fluctuations appear to be affecting allergy seasons everywhere. Researchers and Scientists have found that allergy seasons in many parts of the world are getting longer. The U.S. Department of Agriculture published a report in 2011 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences stating that the spring ragweed season has increased by up to 27 days since 1995 for some parts of the U.S.
Allergy sufferers may get some respite. There are so many factors involved with pollen production that nobody can say for sure just how bad this allergy season will be. Rainfall, temperatures, winds and pollen cycles of individual species will determine just how much pollen will fill the air.