Pollen, the Fail of Spring

26 Apr
Spring is synonymous with way too much pollen in the District.  Every year, the whole region gets blanketed in yellow spores in the springtime. Seriously.
This District Geek has serious allergies that have only gotten worse since moving here.   As such, I thought it would be fitting to explain exactly why I suffer so much in this city, as compared to my hometown of Buffalo, or places like the Southwest US: DC sucks with tree pollens.

Oak pollen has grainy spores, which can float for miles, as well as these “catkin” tentacles which fall on my head.

To visualize how pollen is measured, the National Allergy Bureau lists pollen counts on a scale from Absent to Very High, based on the amount of pollen spores per cubic meter of air.  On this chart, a “moderate” tree pollen count  is 15-89 grams, high is 90-1499, and “very high” means more than 1,500 grains per cubic meter. So far this year, there have been two “very high” spikes in pollen counts in the District. The first was during a spat of 70-degree days in February.  The second was during  last week’s warm, dry weather [via pollen.aaaai.org].   I know firsthand that Oak and Pine blasted us last week, as outside District Geek central there are massive Oaks which dusted my parking area from afar, and to the south a line of pines rained pollen down on the unfortunate cars that parked under their shade.

You do not want to sniff this.

Walter Reed Army Medical Center reported that on the 19th the pollen count was 2302.4 grains per cubic meter.  Such a high concentration of pollen sounds (and feels) insane, but last year, it hit over 4,000 from April 6-8, and the highest pollen count ever recorded in Washington, DC was 4,539 in 2009. The District Geek was present for both records, which spearheaded her continuing Allergy shots in order to try and minimize her suffering.

And although more spring rains has been forecast for this week, which knocks pollen out of the air and washes it off cars and sidewalks, Thursday is meant to be very high once more.  Let’s hope that because of the rain, we won’t have astronomical pollen counts.  Plus, we are nearing the end of the major tree pollination time for this year, so hopefully the end is nigh.
Allergy Medicine

Until then, keep taking your drugs!

Conspiracy theorists take note, some claim climate change is to blame for the longer, stronger allergy seasons.  The linked study  uses two decades worth of data to support their claims.  To quickly dip into my environmental science geek background, although I have noticed that winters in Buffalo are milder now than they were when I grew up, I still believe that a change in weather patterns may not be due to a massive overarching Climate Change.  Humans haven’t measured weather for long enough to claim that, as weather patterns vary within every large cycle of ice ages and thaws.  We are also most likely in a warming period within an ice age, so such changing weather patterns could still be completely within the earth’s cyclic patterns.  Plus, the recent Fukushima/Sendai earthquake changed the tilt and spin of the earth, affecting the Milankovitch cycle, so maybe that 9.0 earthquake is more to blame than Global Warming!
Just food for thought.
Feel free to post your own tales of pollen misery and/or arguments about climate change (I know it’s always a cause of controversy…)!

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