Pollen Measures and Dispersion Studies

This report was written in 2012 as a part of the Bi-national Air Quality Project. Highlights from the report that are of interest to the public are featured below. Read the full report here.

The objectives of the study are:

  • To investigate the sources of pollen measurements in the Las Cruces area, if they are available
  • To investigate the use of alternate methods of pollen data collection
  • To develop a protocol for pollen measurements
  • To develop a meteorological-based pollen generation and dispersion model

This fiscal year we have investigated ways to measure pollen with our existing sampling instrumentation that has been used for gathering dust and fungal species. We located a source of pollen measurement in Las Cruces, created by a local allergist at the Allergy and Asthma Clinic. Pollen counts had been taken in El Paso, but that data is not now being taken as far as we can tell.

Based on the recent Las Cruces dataset, the peak tree pollen period occurs in the spring and early summer. Grass and weed pollen peaks in the fall. Mold counts seem to be constant all year and in low concentrations.

Figure 1 shows a time series of pollen “strength” in Las Cruces from the fall of 2010 to the summer of 2012. The value on the y-axis is average daily “strength.” The allergist rates the strengths from very high to absent. In this plot, the units are levels from their counting procedure and range from very high = 4 to absent = 0.

Pollen Counts in Las Cruces, NM September 2010
Figure 1. Pollen counts in Las Cruces, NM

We will be continuing to build our own database of samples through the next year to compare with the one generated by the local allergist. One of the outcomes will be a pollen taxonomy for this region.

So far we have demonstrated a possible pollen dispersion modeling system that can be used to estimate impacts of various pollen sources during the year. The system is combination of the CALMET/CALPUFF and HySPLIT models that cover multiple scales. A difficulty with modeling pollen using a source model such as CALPUFF is the lack of data and emission models for pollen generation. This issue will be carried over in FY13 to assess ways to predict pollen without knowing precise emissions information.

We are working to link the forecasting information to the public website in the coming fiscal year 2013. The public data access point is operational but will require much explanation and description to be made useful.