Effects of meteorological conditions on spore plumes
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Fungal spores are an ever-present component of the atmosphere, and have long been known to trigger asthma and hay fever symptoms in sensitive individuals. The atmosphere around Tulsa has been monitored for airborne spores and pollen with Burkard spore traps at several sampling stations. This study involved the examination of the hourly spore concentrations on days that had average daily concentrations near 50,000 spores/m3 or greater. Hourly concentrations of Cladosporium, Alternaria, Epicoccum, Curvularia, Pithomyces, Drechslera, smut spores, ascospores, basidiospores, other, and total spores were determined on 4 days at three sites and then correlated with hourly meteorological data including temperature, rainfall, wind speed, dew point, air pressure, and wind direction. On each of these days there was a spore plume, a phenomenon in which spore concentrations increased dramatically over a very short period of time. Spore plumes generally occurred near midday, and concentrations were seen to increase from lows around 20,000 total spores/m3 to highs over 170,000 total spores/m3 in 2 h. Multiple regression analysis of the data indicated that increases in temperature, dew point, and air pressure correlated with the increase in spore concentrations, but no single weather variable predicted the appearance of a spore plume. The proper combination of changes in these meteorological parameters that result in a spore plume may be due to the changing weather conditions associated with thunderstorms, as on 3 of the 4 days when spore plumes occurred there were thunderstorms later that evening. The occurrence of spore plumes may have clinical significance, because other studies have shown that sensitization to certain spore types can occur during exposure to high spore concentrations.
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