Close Your Windows, The "Pollenpocalypse" Has Arrived

A yellow haze of pollen over Durham, North Carolina, captured by photographer Jeremy Gilchrist. Reuters

Shut your windows, grab some tissues, and get on your goggles. A tsunami of pollen has descended on the southeastern US.

On Monday, photographer Jeremy Gilchrist captured some incredible images of what he dubbed the #Pollenpocalypse in Durham, North Carolina.

The city declared pollen levels to be “very high” as the yellow powder coated cars, smothered the ground, and drifted through the air, creating a yellow hell for anyone with allergies. 

To take the photographs, Gilchrist used a drone, which allowed him to achieve a better view of the scenery before him. He told CNN that he only lightly edited the photos before sharing them on social media, adjusting the contrast to match what would be seen by the naked eye from the ground. Dry, breezy conditions helped the pollen to accumulate in the environment before it was washed away by heavy rain. 

Here Gilchrist captures pollen being swept through the air by storm clouds. Reuters

According to Pollen.com’s National Allergy Map, numerous states in the south and southeast are currently being affected by high pollen levels, from Arizona to Arkansas to New York. According to the site, today’s worst cities for hay fever sufferers are Huntington (WV), Louisville (KY), Memphis (TN), Lexington (KY), and Huntsville (AL).

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So why is it so bad this year? Well, like many problems we face today, a key culprit is climate change. For the past few years, the tide of pollen that accompanies the onset of spring has been rising. A warming world thanks to human-induced climate change is both bringing forward and extending the pollen season and helping plants to release even more pollen than normal. 

And, unfortunately, it’s only set to get worse. Like the years before it, 2019 has the potential to be the worst year ever for pollen allergies, causing an unwelcome surge in the itchy eyes and running noses that come with them.

“It’s become the model of health impacts of climate change,” Jeffrey Domain, director of the Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Center in Alaska, recently told Vox.

The yellow mist descending on America is just another reminder that we need to stick to the goals of the Paris Agreement and keep global warming to a minimum. For the fifth of the world's population that suffers from hay fever, the future's looking pretty itchy. 

You can check out more of Gilchrist's surreal photos of #Pollmaggedon below. 

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