Pollen and ozone seasons are coming
Posted on Friday, March 3, 2023 at 3:24 pm
Bad news for allergy sufferers. Pollen season is officially underway.
Agriculture and Consumer Horticulture Agent Gene Fox acknowledges the start of the season by calculating daily temperature swings since Feb. 1, but most casual observers will know it when they see it — a yellow coating on cars, sidewalks and outdoor furniture.
“All we see is pine pollen,” Fox said. “We have oaks, we have maples and other trees that also have pollen season. But their pollen is so small that it cannot be seen.”
Pollen season in eastern North Carolina typically runs from mid-February to mid-March. And while the region had an unusually warm January and even a few records in February, that’s not necessarily an indicator of the intensity or length of the pollen season, Fox said.
“People want to know when is the last time I have to wash the patio furniture,” he said. “We can use these hours to see where we are in the cycle. Unfortunately, this cycle determines the weather, and no two years are alike.’
Raleigh’s daily pollen levels can be found on the state’s Environmental Quality website. Most weather stations also track local levels.
“When it’s hot and dry, there’s a lot of pollen on those days,” Fox said. “The morning is almost always worse than the afternoon.”
The length of the season will ultimately determine weather conditions in the coming weeks and months.
“If we get back to where we’re below that 55 degrees, it kind of stops everything,” Fox said. “It extends the time we see pollen problems. This extends the amount of time we see cool-season annuals germinating, while at the same time being warm enough that we see warm-season annuals germinating. So we have a lot of problems with that.”
According to a release from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, March 1 marks the start of the 2023 ozone season when local environmental agencies renew air quality forecasts for ozone in North Carolina.
“Ground-level ozone is formed in the air when nitrogen oxides (NOx) react with hydrocarbons in the presence of heat and sunlight,” the DEQ said in a statement. “High levels of ozone have been linked to heart and lung disease, including asthma, particularly in young children, the elderly and other vulnerable groups.”
Air quality forecasts are available through the state Air quality portal, a mobile-friendly website launched last year in partnership with the North Carolina State Weather Bureau. Forecasts are also available through the US Environmental Protection Agency AirNow website and an appendix.