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Towards numerical forecasting of long-range air transport of birch pollen: theoretical considerations and a feasibility study

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This paper considers the feasibility of numerical simulation of large-scale atmospheric transport of allergenic pollen. It is shown that at least small grains, such as birch pollen, can stay in the air for a few days, which leads to a characteristic scale for their transport of ∼103 km. The analytical consideration confirmed the applicability of existing dispersion models to the pollen transport task and provided some reference parameterizations of the key processes, including dry and wet deposition. The results were applied to the Finnish Emergency Dispersion Modelling System (SILAM), which was then used to analyze pollen transport to Finland during spring time in 2002–2004. Solutions of the inverse problems (source apportionment) showed that the main source areas, from which the birch flowering can affect Finnish territory, are the Baltic States, Russia, Germany, Poland, and Sweden—depending on the particular meteorological situation. Actual forecasting of pollen dispersion required a birch forest map of Europe and a unified European model for birch flowering, both of which were nonexistent before this study. A map was compiled from the national forest inventories of Western Europe and satellite images of broadleaf forests. The flowering model was based on the mean climatological dates for the onset of birch forests rather than conditions of any specific year. Utilization of probability forecasting somewhat alleviated the problem, but the development of a European-wide flowering model remains the main obstacle for real-time forecasting of large-scale pollen distribution.

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The work was done within the scope of the common POLLEN project of the Aerobiological Group of the University of Turku and the Finnish Meteorological Institute.The authors also gratefully acknowledge the support of the Emil Aaltonen foundation in the form of a personal grant for P. Siljamo. Computations partially relied upon data and methodologies kindly provided by the International Phenological Garden (IPG) project. Discussions with, and support of, Jaakko Kukkonen are greatly appreciated.

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Sofiev, M., Siljamo, P., Ranta, H. et al. Towards numerical forecasting of long-range air transport of birch pollen: theoretical considerations and a feasibility study. Int J Biometeorol 50, 392–402 (2006).

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