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Great afternoon, pollen count increasing, no rain

Posted by David Epstein  April 4, 2012 01:50 PM

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Another afternoon of sunshine and mild temperatures. Winds are going to be brisk this afternoon but it will still be a nearly perfect April day. Now that the trees are leafing out, pollen is increasing each day. Pollen tends to be highest in the morning, but with a steady breeze this afternoon it will remain high. It's a great day to take a walk or bring the coffee outside, you just might need to take your allergy medicine with that afternoon java.

Pollen is a powder that can be course or hard and contains the genetic code from the male part of the plant. Basically, it's plant sperm inside a capsule. You don't see much of it in the air because it's so small. However, the pine pollen, which isn't out yet, is larger and very yellow and gets all over everything for a few weeks. I have landscape clients that won't put their mulch down until the pine pollen is done because they don't want it to get all yellow. When you see the pollen count going up, like in this chart. pollen.jpgYou can see in the chart that our pollen count is expected to go higher into the weekend. The count is done by using machines that collect the pollen in the air and literally counting the pollen grains per cubic meter. The higher the density of pollen, the greater the allergen and the more people who are allergic to that type of pollen will show symptoms. With no rain in the forecast to wash the pollen out of the air, the count is only going to go higher as the trees continue to leaf out. Sometimes the pollen can get so dense that folks who normally don't consider themselves allergic to pollen will experience sneezing, watery eyes and other effects.

Red flag warning again.

Another day of sunshine and great weather and another red flag warning from the National Weather Service. This warning is issued when conditions become such that fire danger is exceedingly high. Today is another day with one of those warnings. (see below)

Thumbnail image for red flag warning.jpg

We normally don't see too many days with these types of warnings. However, with the mild winter, warm spring and lack of rain, conditions remain dangerous in terms of brush fires. I expect we will see several more days of these types of warnings until we get some significant rain and/or the vegetation is greener.

This map spells trouble if it's correct.

precip through 20th.jpg

The map above shows how much is predicted to fall across the country over the next 15 days! I showed the same map yesterday for only 10 days, this is worse. You can clearly see that we here in the northeast remain in a dry slot. There is less than three-quarters of an inch of rainfall predicted for this period. If this forecast holds, that would put us on par for one of the driest March through mid-April periods on record. The deeper into April we get, the more the plants will start using what water is left in the ground. If rainfall doesn't occur, then the ground will rapidly dry and some plants could show stress later this summer.

I don't want to be an alarmist about the lack of rain because two weeks of rain in May will undo this entire issue. However, the pattern is very locked right now and my fear is that we continue to see drought conditions through the spring and then into summer. Back in the mid 1960s New England experienced drought conditions for several consecutive years. 1965 was the driest year on record since the late 1800s. As recently as June 1999, Boston record zero rainfall the entire month. That summer, water bans were prevalent across the entire State. If you don't have a garden or a lawn you might think what is the big deal? However, a lack of rain will create very high pollen counts, high fire danger and cause high prices for produce, something we all have to endure.

Luckily, we still have some time to get rain before the summer season kicks in. Once we get past the first week in June, it becomes increasingly less likely we will see any major general rainstorms. Most of the rain that falls during the summer is from scattered showers and thunderstorms and is highly variable from place to place. Right now we are in a moderate drought. There will be an update later this week on the drought monitor. (see map below)

drought.jpg


Day to day weather
Today is going to be a spectacular early April day with abundant sunshine and temperatures in the mid 60s. Winds will be brisk this afternoon, but it will still be a great day. Tomorrow looks nice again, but about 10°F cooler as temperatures hold in the mid 50s much of the afternoon.

Friday through Easter
It will be sunny for each of these 3 days. Temperatures will be very similar each day. I expect the mornings to be cool in the 30s but by noon we should be nearing the high of 60°F. If it weren't for the lack of rain, this would be a perfect forecast. Since we can't make it rain, we might as well enjoy this fine stretch of spring weather. I hope you have a great Passover or Easter weekend.

Gardening tip of the week
I planted my garlic in the ground last fall, it's growing quite well now and will be ready for harvest this summer. You can plant garlic in the spring but it tends to not grow as big as those planted in the fall. If you don't have much space, try growing garlic in a pot. You can use organic garlic you would buy at the store to plant or get it as your local nursery.

Follow me on Twitter at @growingwisdom and check out my latest videos at GrowingWisdom.com

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

David Epstein has been a professional meteorologist and horticulturalist for three decades. David spent 16 years at WCVB in Boston and currently freelances for WGME in Portland, ME. In 2006, More »
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