From the ABC 7 Weather team

Grab a tissue: Pollen count in D.C. 'very high' this week

April 21, 2011 - 05:00 AM
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Recent temperature spikes in D.C. have caused the pollen count to shoot up to "very high." But are pollen websites accurately reporting what's in the air?

Heavenly blue morning glory pollen, as seen through a stereo scanning electron microscope. If you have red/green 3D glasses, put them on now. (Dartmouth Electron Microscope Facility)

Carried an umbrella around all day Wednesday like an idiot? Want to know what happened with that 30 percent chance of severe thunderstorms?

Simply put, the system that seemed so threatening ran into some hard-nosed air masses from Pennsylvania and West Virginia that stopped it like a brick wall. ABC7 meteorologist Alex Liggitt has written the postmortem. So instead of a thunderous downpour, the D.C. region lolled in saucy temperatures and a sunny sky that was perfect for cloud gazing – nephelococcygia, if you want the technical term, which you probably don't as even a talking dictionary stumbles over it.

Today will be a rainless transition day before another potentially wet Friday. But while it'll be sunny, the weather “sure as heck” won't be as pampering as yesterday, says senior meteorologist Bob Ryan. A cold front that streaked through overnight will make many folks want to layer up this morning; high temperatures might only hit the lower to mid-60s. “It’s been a yo-yo month,” Ryan says. “The yo-yo is coming back up, or the temperatures are falling, depending how you look at it.”

The recent temperature spikes in D.C. have been sweet for outdoorsy folks, like this kayaker I spotted crossing the Delaware... er, the C&O Canal last week:

kayak21

But it's also been agony for allergy sufferers. The three pollens of the apocalypse – Quercus, from the deleterious clan of oak; Pinaceae of the air bladder-swinging conifers; the sickly spawn of sweet gums, Liquidambar – have enjoyed free reign to savage our precious mucous membranes.

I would estimate that rip-snorting sneezes have increased twofold in awkward confined spaces like elevators and Metro trains. Yesterday, the local tree-pollen count was listed as “very high” by National Allergy Bureau standards at 1,624 grains per square meter, which corresponds to the number of particles you inhale every hour outdoors. (Because D.C. has so many trees, the city uses its own kicked-up definitions of "very high.")

A word of caution: If you're seeking daily pollen counts online, you might not be getting the full picture. A recent study by the Asthma and Allergy Care Center in North Dakota and London researchers found that two popular pollen websites, Pollen.com and The Weather Network, were not giving as accurate counts as NAB, run by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. The researchers concluded that the commercial sites relied on historical pollen data that might be good for gleaning a rough understanding of air quality without stating what exactly is floating in the air now, whereas NAB's counts relied on near real-time data from monitoring stations across North America.

You can read more about the study – wachoo!!!here.

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