Warm temperatures and wet weather have made pollen a year-long nuisance for allergy sufferers in South Florida, with readings last week reaching into the moderate range, according to the Florida Department of Health’s Palm Beach County office.
While a reading taken yesterday was in the “low” range for pollen from trees, grasses and weeds, the pollen this year never took it’s normal seasonal break, said Randall Miller, an environmental supervisor for the health department’s division of environmental public health division.
“Pollen usually shuts down November to March and the last we see of ragweed is usually October,” Miller said. “But we’ve seen ragweed all the way out through December. This season didn’t really get a chance to shut down.”
Palm Beach County has three levels for its pollen measurement; 0-20 is low, 20 to 200 is moderate, and anything above 200 is high.
Palm Beach County temperatures in December were 8 degrees warmer than the historic average, while temps in January and February have been about normal. According to the National Weather Service, rain totals at the Palm Beach International Airport were 4 inches higher than normal in December and 7 inches higher in January.
Pollen can improve right after a rain as it is washed out of the air.
“But at the same time, you may have an in influx as the plants and trees get water,” Miller said.
Miller said the lack of a strong, extended cool down has aided in straight pollination for the past three to five years.
“The pine pollen will usually start in February, but a cold spell, down into the 40s for several days, would put it on hold until April usually,” Miller said. “The last three years in January, the pines and palms have started and we’re still seeing that pollination going on.”
Miller said there is a difference in the actual measurements taken by the county health department for pollen and mold, and what is reported on Pollen.com. According to Miller, Pollen.com is more of a forecast of pollen that takes into account climatological data on temperatures and rain.
Pollen.com, which is owned by Connecticut-based IMS Health, Inc., did not immediately return a request for an interview. According to its website, IMS Health developed Pollen.com’s forecasts and manufactures a pollen-measuring device called Rotorod that can be purchased.