Annual variations in grass pollen seasons in London 1961–1990: trends and forecast models


Dr J. Emberlin, Pollen Research Unit. Life Sciences, University of North London. 166 220 Holloway Road. London N7 -8DB. U.K.


The record of daily average grass pollen concentrations monitored at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington. London, U.K. since 1961 is the longest duration pollen data set in Europe. Analysis of the results identifies the trends and characteristics of grass pollen seasons over three decades. During this lime seasonal allergic rhinitis has increased significantly in Britain. The annual start dates, length of season and severity are examined in relation to the main meteorological variables of cumulated temperatures above 5-5°C and precipitation measured at one site within London and two in the surrounding rural areas. Land-use changes are also considered. Significant decreases have taken place in both the duration and severity of the seasons, particularly between the 1960s and the early 1970s but also through the last 20 yr. This is largely a result of a decrease in pollen abundance in the region. The decline in pollen counts has slowed in recent years due to the increase in flowering grasses caused by the seaside policy and by uncut verges. Grass pollen seasons have tended to start later over the last two decades, despite an increase in the cumulated temperature profiles during late winter and spring. Empirical models have been developed using multiple regressions to incorporate meteorological and pollen data for the last 20 yr in order to forecast the start dates. duration and severity of the grass pollen seasons. These models were applied successful using the data for 1991 and 1992. Predictions of the main characteristics on the pollen seasons can be obtained relatively early in the year through the use of these models by employing the monthly weather forecasts in conjunction with long-term average weather profiles.