Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sky-high pollen count? Blame mild winter

The temperature isn't the only thing that has climbed far above average this March in the Charlotte region.

So has the pollen count.

The Charlotte area has reached extremely high levels of pollen count the past two days, and the total reportedly is at record levels in Atlanta. Meteorologists say we can blame it on the mild winter.

The situation is obvious to anyone who has gone outdoors. Certainly, you've noticed the coat of yellow dust on your vehicles. That's pine pollen, and it's making a mess of everything ... and probably bringing joy into the hearts of people who operate car washes.

Doctors say pine pollen is ugly but isn't the big health problem that some of its smaller brethren are. As WBTV meteorologist Al Conklin said Wednesday morning, it's the pollen we can't see that causes the problems.

And in the Charlotte area, that's oak pollen.

First, for some numbers. The Charlotte Asthma and Allergy Center says the pollen count Tuesday in the city was 9,790. That's a measurement of the pieces of pollen per cubic meter. That's a ridiculously high number. Officially, Charlotte has been in the "very high" category the past two days.

Of that 9,790 count, more than 8,800 were oak pollen. And oak pollen is particularly troublesome to a lot of people with allergies. That's why many people are miserable these days, dealing with the oak pollen. In comparison, the pollen count for pine -- which we're seeing on cars and trucks -- was about 550.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that the pollen count of 8,164 Monday in Atlanta set a record -- about 35 percent higher than the previous high of 6,013 measured on April 12, 1999.

Frank Strait, a Rock Hill native who now works as a meteorologist at Pennsylvania-based Accu-Weather, says we can blame it on the mild winter.

"When it starts hitting the 60s and 70s regularly, as it did in February, you start to get the trees out of their dormant state and the flowers blooming," Strait said.

"A small part of the high pollen may also be attributed to people getting an early start to their spring gardens and flower beds, thanks to the unseasonably mild weather," he added.

There's some good news. In areas where it rained Tuesday evening, the pollen count will be lower today, although it is forecast to remain in the "high" range. And with more showers and thunderstorms forecast daily through Saturday, we can expect some relief.

Lasting relief will have to wait until the flowers and trees stop producing pollen in another few weeks, though.


Anonymous said...

Both my cars are yellow each morning. Seriously, so much pollen on them, you can't see through the windows. Have to rinse them off at least twice a day if I'm planning on going anywhere.