WSU Cougar Head Logo Washington State University
WSU Insider
News and Information for Faculty, Staff, and the WSU Community

Weathercatch: Weather drives intense wallop of tree pollen levels

Weathercatch Photo LogoBy Nic Loyd, WSU meteorologist, and Linda Weiford, WSU News

We see it and feel it — pollen madness. Trees have been exploding with tiny particles that coat our cars and make our eyes scratchy and our noses run.

Blame it on the weather.

Rain and cool temperatures during March and April suppressed the early pollinating cycle of many trees in our region. Then came May, when stretches of warm, dry days “led to a rapid burst of pollen being released at once,” according to WSU colleague Andy McCubbin, a molecular plant biologist who specializes in pollen. Generally speaking, cool, damp conditions are good for plant growth but pollen isn’t released until the weather warms up and the rain lets up, he said.

pollen pictureMarch and April saw a total of 5.71 inches of rain in the Spokane area. By comparison, 3.62 inches fell during the same period last year and only 2.96 inches in 2015.

Less rainfall during those two previous years prompted early-pollinating trees to release on schedule, meaning that pollen levels spread out more gradually from March through May. But this spring was another story, with trees pollinating almost simultaneously during warm stretches in May and early June.

Tree pollen counts surged into the high range for several days beginning on May 23, when the peak temperature reached 82 degrees and again May 30, when the mercury climbed to 90.

We’ve also had plenty of breezy days, intensifying the amount of airborne pollen levels. And talk about aerodynamic — wind-blown pollens can be carried as far as 500 miles from their original source, according to the Maryland-based Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

This past Saturday, the high hit 83 degrees with winds gusting to 19 mph, sending more pollen on its merry way.

The good news for allergy sufferers is that the trees will soon stop releasing their pollen. The bad news? The grass pollination season is unfolding, which means one pollen season is overlapping another.

Weathercatch is a bimonthly column that appears in The Spokesman Review. Nic Loyd is a meteorologist with Washington State University’s AgWeatherNet. Linda Weiford is a WSU news writer and weather geek. Contact: linda.weiford@wsu.edu.

Next Story

Recent News

WSU Core-to-Career program announces members of third cohort

Twenty-one Washington State University faculty have been named as the newest members of the Core-to-Career professional development program that impacts undergradutes’ career readiness.

Sharing American political and judicial expertise overseas

Recipient of a Fulbright Senior Specialist award for a three-week visit to Slovakia, WSU’s Cornell Clayton held a series of lectures for graduate and undergraduate students focusing on contemporary American politics.

College of Education appoints Eric Johnson as associate dean

Eric Johnson, an English language learners professor, will begin his two-year term on Aug. 16 and will focus heavily on faculty and staff professional development aimed at fostering an inclusive and equitable educational environment within the college.

WSU lab joins network identifying new pathogens

As part of the $1.7 billion Pathogen Genomics Center of Excellence, the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory will play a key role preventing the spread of disease-causing pathogens, including new COVID-19 variants.

Find More News

Subscribe for more updates