Warning: This footage might make allergy sufferers sneeze their brains out.

If there’s ever a video to make you involuntarily itch and wheeze, it’s this one from Red Bank, South Carolina, showing pollen coming down so heavily it looks like snow flurries.

Tony Nettles of Palmetto Weather captured the awful allergy-mist this week using an infrared camera. While single pollen grains are often too small to be noticed, here they appear to have clumped into flakes that, if hoovered into a sinus, would cause sneezing fits for hours.

“Pollen grains are very sticky and easily stick together when they collide,” says Nettles. “You’ll notice in the video that these clumps are falling downward. A single grain of pollen would be so lightweight that it would likely stay airborne. You need many of them clumped together in order for them to be heavy enough to fall with gravity like this.”

But that’s not the only fascinating thing about South Carolina’s recent explosion of pollen. The particles have drifted so thickly they appear to have tricked weather instruments into actually believing they’re snow. The evidence comes from an automated weather sensor’s log for March 22 in Columbia, showing several hours of snow despite clear skies and above-freezing temperatures.

NCDC/NOAA

The local office of the National Weather Service has also noted reports of snow and “low clouds” due to pollen. For weather geeks who want the nitty-gritty on this bizarre phenomenon, Nettles explains more via email:

These ASOS stations have a device called a LEDWI (Light Emitting Diode Weather Identifier) which basically consists of a beam of infrared light that measures the size, shape, intensity, and fall pattern of precipitation as it falls through that beam of light. It can tell by the size, shape, and fall pattern if the particles are raindrops or snowflakes (as liquid raindrops stretch to a long/skinny shape as they fall through the air and quickly fall straight down, while snowflakes are more fat/round and tend to wobble/drift in the wind as they fall). The pollen, being a lightweight solid, is round and drifts in the wind much like a snowflake.

It also compares this with other data sensors (such as the thermometer) on the ASOS station in order to quality-control the reports. That is, if the thermometer says it’s 70 degrees, it will know it’s too warm for snow and will discount any suspect snow signatures falling through the light beam. Temperatures dropped into the 30s this particular morning—a reasonable temperature for snow. Thus, it fooled the quality-control algorithms that typically block pollen from being reported as “snow.”

So while Northerners are battling a winter that won’t die this spring, at least they haven’t had to suffer misery like this in the South:

Well... spring's here! 😳 #pollen #northcarolina #spring #yellow #wtf

A photo posted by Clay Aiken (@clayaiken) on

And while this footage from Tennessee comes from a few years back, it simply cannot be omitted from any discussion of the pollen count being high:

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Equity

    We'll Need To Reopen Our Cities. But Not Without Making Changes First.

    We must prepare for a protracted battle with coronavirus. But there are changes we can make now to prepare locked-down cities for what’s next.

  2. photo: Former HUD secretary Julián Castro
    Equity

    How to Head Off a Coronavirus Housing Crisis

    Former HUD secretary and presidential candidate Julián Castro has ideas for state and federal leaders on protecting vulnerable renters from a housing disaster.

  3. photo: a For Rent sign in a window in San Francisco.
    Coronavirus

    Do Landlords Deserve a Coronavirus Bailout, Too?

    Some renters and homeowners are getting financial assistance during the economic disruption from the coronavirus pandemic. What about landlords?

  4. Coronavirus

    Black Businesses Are Not Getting the Coronavirus Relief They Deserve

    The latest U.S. coronavirus aid package promises a partial and uneven economic recovery that leaves behind the African American community.

  5. photo: South Korean soldiers attempt to disinfect the sidewalks of Seoul's Gagnam district in response to the spread of COVID-19.
    Coronavirus

    Pandemics Are Also an Urban Planning Problem

    Will COVID-19 change how cities are designed? Michele Acuto of the Connected Cities Lab talks about density, urbanization and pandemic preparation.  

×