Airborne pollen characteristics and the influence of temperature and precipitation in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA (1999–2012)
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The incidence of allergic diseases has been increasing in recent decades, in part due to increased exposure to aeroallergens, particularly pollen. Allergic diseases have a major burden on the health care system, with annual costs in the USA alone exceeding $30 billion. There is evidence that the production of aeroallergens, including pollen, is increasing in response to environmental and climatic change, which has important implications for the treatment of allergy sufferers. In this study, pollen data from a Rotorod sampler in Raleigh, North Carolina, was used to characterize and examine trends in the atmospheric pollen seasons for trees, grasses, and weeds over the period 1999–2012. The influence of mean monthly antecedent and concurrent temperature and precipitation on the timing, duration, and severity of the pollen seasons was assessed using Pearson’s product-moment correlation coefficients and multiple linear regression models. An increasing trend was noted in seasonal tree pollen concentrations, while seasonal and peak weed pollen concentrations declined over time. The atmospheric pollen seasons for grasses and weeds trended toward earlier start dates and longer durations, while the tree pollen season trended toward an earlier end date. Peak daily tree pollen concentrations were strongly associated with antecedent temperature and precipitation, while peak daily grass pollen concentrations were strongly associated with concurrent precipitation. The strongest relationships between climate and weed pollen were associated with the timing and duration of the pollen season, with drier antecedent and warmer concurrent conditions tied to longer weed pollen seasons.
KeywordsPollen Phenology Temperature Precipitation Climate change
We thank the following individuals from the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources: Mary Clark (retired), Wayne Cornelius, and Corey Mocka of the Division of Air Quality for providing the Raleigh pollen data, and Robert Russ of the Office of Environmental Assistance and Protection for providing the Winston-Salem pollen data. We also thank Amy Sun from the Department of Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for developing the code to conduct the data imputation. Lastly, we thank the two anonymous reviewers, whose comments helped improve the quality of the manuscript.
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