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The Climate-Allergy Link: A Spring 2022 Outlook

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Nancy Colleton: Hello. Good morning everyone, unless it's good evening and good afternoon where you might be. My name is Nancy Colleton. I'm the President of the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies. I'm visiting you today just outside of Washington, DC, where, according to my BreezoMeter app it's 52 degrees outside, which is about 11 degrees Celsius, and my air quality says it's moderate.

So it's a perfect day for discussion on the climate allergy link. Well, all of my pollen sources seem to be out of season. You know, just the thought of tree, weed, and grass pollen makes my eyes wide want to water. I don't know about you, but allergies aren't easy to deal with.

I'll be joined today by an incredible panel with this webinar. We will be discussing one, the impact of climate change on the allergy season and the air we breathe, and secondly, what some of the practical takeaways might be for your business, your organization or just yourself as an individual. 

As 2021 comes to a close, this webinar is about being more forward-thinking, and looking forward, we're looking to examine spring 2022 and what we can expect in terms of weather, climate, pollen, and allergies. So whether you're joining us from the United States or from Israel or from Brazil, we're glad you're joining us, and I think you'll really enjoy hearing from our very, very well-informed panelists.

To get started, let me just quickly walk through who you will be hearing from today. We'll be hearing, first of all, from Ms Bernadette Woods Placky. She's the Chief Meteorologist and Director of Climate Matters at Climate Central. She's joining us from Princeton, NJ, here in the United States. 

Following Ms Placky, Dr. Theresa Crimmins, who is the director of the USA Phenology Network, is joining us from Tucson, AZ. Following Dr. Crimmins will be Dr. Jan Dutton, who's joining us from Charlottesville, VA. He is the President of the World Climate Service. And last but not least, we will be joined by BreezoMeter's Paul Walsh, who is their new General Manager of their US operation. 

So, as I said, we have a great panel. All of these speakers will bring a different perspective to help us build the story about the climate allergy link. So to get started, I’ll just remind everyone that we're recording this webinar. If, as you hear the speakers go through their presentations, you have questions, please include those in the chat and I will try to get to them, to the best of my ability, and we'll have our panelists answer those. And then, last but not least, please just enjoy this really interesting discussion. Because I think it's so one of the first times we'll be talking about it as a community.

To get started, I'd like to ask Bernadette Woods Placky to put her presentation on the screen, please. I'll stop my share, and she can put her share on the screen. And she'll be telling us about living in a changing climate, a flood of pollen. Now, Bernadette, we hear about floods so much related to climate change, but we don't hear it so much as a flood of pollen, so why don't you tell us more about that?

1. Pollen Seasons Are Shifting

Bernadette Woods Placky: Absolutely. So great to be joining you all today. Thank you Nancy for that nice introduction to all of us here and. This is actually the start of meteorological winter on December 1st. But that means we're only a couple of months away from spring kicking off. It might seem far off too many of you in the northern climates where it's just really settling into the cold. But it's not that far away and that's why we think this is a really good time to start talking about this.

So, where I want to start is: our pollen seasons, our allergy seasons, are so intimately tied to our growing seasons. Here's a snapshot, I think it already played so I’m going to take it back and start this again. There we go. Summers are getting longer in our warming climate. But it's not in isolation. What they're doing is essentially shifting our spring to earlier, shifting our fall to later, so it lingers longer and shrinks a lot of our winter, which is the season we're trying to settle into right now. 

All of this is really necessary in the full ecosystem and how we work through things. But as we shift and change these seasons, essentially what we're doing is growing that warm time, growing that growing season. And, in turn, growing our allergy seasons. 

So if we take a snapshot here of the entire United States, and we're going to focus on some US data but these trends do apply globally, we're seeing, overall, the days above freezing are on the rise, across the United States. Now it doesn't play out the same from location to location. Warming is not uniform everywhere. 

I've just taken a snapshot of a couple of different cities here. These are all ones that are extending their growing season from the Pacific Northwest and Portland, OR, three weeks more of allergy season. We're looking at 32 days in Minneapolis and some of these colder climates, really pushing the boundary. Philadelphia, we're also looking at multiple weeks here of a longer allergy season. And also in Atlanta. 

But as we progress with this conversation, and Jan will get into this in a little bit here too, there are actually some places where we're seeing it shift on a decreasing side, but those tend to be not the norm right now. Overall, as a big picture in the United States, the vast majority of places, and around the globe, are extending these growing seasons, which in turn extend our allergy seasons.

More CO2 = More Pollen

Looking forward, it's not just the warming that connects to the amount of pollen that we see in the air. But there is an intimate connection with the amount of carbon dioxide that's in the air also. And as we look forward in time, what you're seeing here, and I’m going to take you through this because not everyone's used to looking at climate models, but:

There are multiple paths when we look at climate models going forward. There's the path that we're currently on and you'll see that in the dark green bars here. If we continue on this current path, and our CO2 levels continue to increase at this path, if we go through these decades here, look at how much more grass pollen production we will see just in this century. Now, if we do cut our emissions going forward, we're still going to see a bump up, but not quite as drastic. 

So we do have choices going forward on how much more warming and carbon dioxide we bake into our system, and the reason, one of the many reasons that's important, is because it will affect how much allergy we have to deal with going forward.

Shifting Planting Zones

Now, it's not just this lengthening of season, but it's also a shifting of seasons. New allergens are moving into new zones. So even if you've lived in the same place for a long time, you might be experiencing different allergies in different ways, right now. That's because what you're seeing in this map right here is these are the planting zones. And over time, see this little sort of push? Seems small, but if you're in one of these zones it's shifting into a new zone, going north or going upward in elevation. This is in the northern hemisphere, of course. In the southern hemisphere shifting southward.

But the idea is that we're seeing this lengthening of the season. We're seeing it migrating and shifting into new zones, and it's coming at times that we're not usually prepared for. If people are programmed to start taking a certain medication at a certain time of year, and it helps their kids get through a certain sports season, or whatever, all of a sudden that's kicking in a month earlier and it's throwing things off and a lot of kids and people are having issues with that. And that's why we have to pay attention to this.

So that's a quick snapshot overall of what we're seeing with that connection of longer growing seasons, in a warming climate, and shifting planting zones. So with that, I am going to now pass it back to Nancy so we can continue this conversation with I think Teresa.

Nancy Colleton: Right, well, you know, I think that that was such great information. One, as you say, the lengthening of the growing seasons, the shifting, and even if you lived someplace for a long time, it's going to be a different environment. So Theresa, with your work with the US Phenology Network, can you give us a little bit more as to how you can drill down and better understand these growing seasons?

Monitoring Change to Improve Our Understanding

Theresa Crimmins: Absolutely. I’d be happy to do that, thank you. So, thank you, Nancy. I am the director of the USA National Phenology Network. Basically, what we do is keep track of what's happening on the ground as a consequence of those changes that Bernadette just described. 

So I might teach you a new vocabulary word this morning. Again, I represent the National Phenology Network, which is an awkward word that most people don't know for a phenomenon that I guarantee you're very familiar with. It's when things happen seasonally in plants and animals. So things like when you first see leaves up here on that oak tree in your backyard or when you first see a monarch flitting around in your backyard. It's also seasonal events like egg hatch or egg-laying, or migration, crop harvest, they’re all sorts of seasonal events that occur in biological organisms.

The National Phenology Network

The timing of when these events occur is very closely tied to environmental conditions. Local conditions. So typically, when you see leaves or flowers come out in the spring has a lot to do with how warm it's been in the preceding months. And so you're probably familiar with when we have a really warm spring, we tend to see flowers and leaves come on earlier, just like Bernadette was just explaining. And that with that comes pollen earlier in the season too.

Because these events are so indicative of biological response, they are a biological response to changing environmental conditions, our network was established back in 2007 with the primary aims of keeping track of this kind of stuff, collecting, storing, and sharing data and information about when plants and animals are undergoing different seasonal events across the country.

And we make these data and data products available to better support the timing of management decisions. To support our increasing scientific understanding of what are the drivers to events in plants and animals, how they're changing, how they may be anticipated to change in the future with continued increases in temperature or other changes to our climate conditions. As well as to communicate, to try to increase familiarity among folks in our country about what the word phenology means, and why it matters. And then hopefully to make that information available widely to everybody who can benefit from a better understanding of what’s going on.

Comprehensive Citizen Science Program

One of the primary ways that we get the information about what's happening on the ground in plants and animals over the course of the seasons and over the course of the year is through a citizen science program called Nature's Notebook. 

What this is is a program that's suitable for just about all ages and backgrounds, you definitely don't have to be a scientist to participate. But it involves keeping track of what you're seeing happening on individual plants, either in someplace that's convenient to do to you, like in your yard, or animals. We have over 1400 different species available for monitoring, and you observe using standardized protocols that basically are a series of yes/no questions. 

This is a screencap of the APP from my phone, and I’m monitoring a tree in my backyard that I nicknamed Zach’s tree because I planted it when my son was born. Every time I go out to make an observation, which is approximately once a week, I am prompted with questions like do I see young leaves on the tree, and I answer yes or no. If I’m not sure what young leaves actually look like I can hit the little ‘i’ here, and it gives me a few sentence descriptions that should help me make sure I’m really understanding what the heck I’m looking for and being able to answer that with confidence.

And if I say yes, I do see young leaves, I'm then prompted with a drop-down menu with some choices of approximately how many young leaves do I think I see on that tree. And then I’m also prompted with questions about the status of the leaves, whether I see colored leaves, falling leaves, flowers or flower buds, open flowers, and then there are a couple more choices that aren't quite visible here pertaining to the fruit.

So, once you get to know what you're looking for it's actually pretty quick to go out and make observations. I make observations on probably about 15 different plants in my yard, and I try to do it on a weekly basis. What this provides is a really rich picture of what's happening on all those different phenomena on that particular plant over the course of the year.

We launched Nature's Notebook in 2009 and since that time we've amassed over 27 million records. A record is every time somebody says yes or no to one of those questions that we just saw in the previous slide. These records have come from approximately 17,000 sites, primarily in the US, because that's our focus, although there's nothing to prevent folks from outside the US from participating too. 

So you can kind of see that there are a number of participants in Canada and some other outlying areas and even the other side of the globe. This map just shows the distribution and density of the data that we had come in since that time. These data are all very readily available using a number of tools on our website, and so, if that's of interest, follow up with me later.

Does Flowering = Allergies?

These data have been used in a growing number of scientific studies, as well as management applications. Since today's webinar is focused on pollen and the pollen season, I will mention some research that we have active right now, where we're looking at. 

We don't really encourage our observers to tell us whether they see pollen flying because that's a very difficult thing to evaluate, especially when usually, it involves looking at very small flowers on trees and they're very high in the canopy. What we do instead is ask folks whether, again, they see open flowers or not. So we are undertaking a study where we're trying to evaluate whether our volunteer reports of open flowers serve as a legitimate proxy for the concentration of pollen flying in the air. And so this is an example of comparison that we're doing. 

There are a number of pollen observation stations that look something like this piece of equipment on the left here scattered across the country that autonomously log the pollen in the air. And then slides are taken and counted by observers for how much pollen from what taxa are being seen on a particular day. What we're comparing that with is the fraction of reports on flowering that were reported to be ‘yes’ for that same tax coming into our program. We're doing this across the country at varying buffer sizes around those stations. 

It's very preliminary, we don't have this published yet, but just an example, this is from one of the stations and one of the years, and I think this is Oak pollen from Minneapolis. The black dots are the pollen concentrations on a daily basis, the X-axis is the day of year, and the line that you're seeing is the fraction of reports of flowering from our program that we're ‘yes’. So you can see that it's not perfect, but there is some relationship here. The reports from volunteer observers through our program are pretty much reflecting the ebb and flow of pollen.

And so, this is hinting at the fact that, yeah volunteer observations may be a piece of the puzzle for better documenting what's going on with pollen in the air over the course of the year and geographically.

Phenology Data Applications

These phenology data are also being used in a whole lot of other management applications and scientific studies too. Just a couple I could mention very briefly are invasive species management, planning the timing of management actions like when to undertake controlled burns or mowing or even knocking down buildings to avoid disrupting swallows that have their nests up in the barn eves. There's an association between the timing of springtime phenology and the size and frequency of wildfires. Also, assessing damage to crops because of late-season frost, and a whole lot more than I could go into for a lot longer but I’ll keep it brief here.

One of the other things that we're doing is we take these data and use them to establish predictive models that can then be used to generate these short-term forecasts across the country. We have forecasts that indicate when is the biological start of spring occurring. This is our map from this past year, where the tone, the color in the map, represents the day of year that conditions were reached where early-season plants would begin to leap out so we call this our leaf index. 

That's interesting, but really what's more interesting, I think, is the anomaly map where we difference that day of year that the start of spring was reached, and from when it was on average reached in the last 30 years. We are using the old climate normal period in this map. In 2022 will be updating to the 1991 to 2020 climate normal period, so these maps will look different. 

But what this map is showing is that for this past spring in 2021, if the color is a red shade, that means that the start of spring was reached earlier than it was in that climate normal period of 81 to 2010. And if it's blue it was reached later than average. So we get this striping situation going on this past year. And what was going on there is that you may recall, or not, early in the year, like in January, it was pretty warm in the south, and that led to an early start to spring in some of the southern states. 

But then we had that very cold event that knocked out the power in Texas and caused all the problems. That was a very widespread event that slowed down the accumulation of warms in those early months, and that led to a later onset of spring in many of the states in the middle part of the country. Then, as we got going even later in the season, the warming picked up again and we ended up ahead of schedule for the start of spring in much of the upper parts of the continental US.

So those are just a couple of the things that our network does and I’d be happy to speak with you more if you have further questions, but this time I will pass it back to Nancy.

Nancy Colleton: Great. Thank you, Teresa. That was awesome. And thank you so much for educating us all on the terminology, or at least the term of phenology. It doesn't just include plants, it includes animals as well, so thank you so much.

Now we'll transition over to Dr. Jan Dutton, who is the President of the World Climate Service, and he will give us that incredible outlook we're looking forward to in 2022. When is spring going to arrive, Jan? 

World Climate Service

Jan Dutton: Thank you. Well, let's get into that topic. I’ll say thank you to Paul and to BreezoMeter for inviting me to participate in this discussion. It's much appreciated. 

So first a little bit about the World Climate Service. So, for the World Climate Service, we focus on long-range forecasting, and I’ll talk a little bit about what that means in a moment. But what I’ve done here is sort of highlighted that we're focused on seasonal forecasting and then some seasonal forecasts, which is forecast for weeks in advance. We do that by basically processing a massive amount of data that involves forecast models and analog analysis, which are what we use today, and then statistical forecasting as well.

What we're trying to do is provide these semi-independent sources of information to compare and contrast what each methodology says to try to come up with the best possible view of what's likely to happen in the future.

Weather vs Climate Forecasting

I get asked a lot about the difference between weather forecasting and climate forecasting, so I thought I would address it here.

Weather forecasting is called deterministic forecasting, in which we're trying to predict specific events on certain days, and there is in fact a limit to weather forecasting, which probably everyone knows, but it's actually been proven to be about two weeks into the future. The key for weather forecasting is that the skill we have in weather forecasting is based on the knowledge of what is happening in the atmosphere when the model starts running. So, the weather conditions happening right now help us predict the weather conditions tomorrow and we combine them with the mathematics of running them all.

For climate forecasting, we have to have a probabilistic view because of the uncertainty that makes the weather forecast skill decrease over time. For climate forecasting, we're forecasting weeks and months into the future, and the skill for these forecasts is generally dependent on what are called boundary conditions. Those would include things like sea surface temperatures or soil moistures and snow cover and other potential factors.

So what I’m going to focus on today is sea surface temperatures, and the reason I’m focusing on that is because it turns out there is a La Niña event occurring now in the tropical Pacific Ocean. So a lot of seasonal forecast predictability comes from La Niña and El Niño events.

La Niña Conditions

So for a La Nina event, the tropical Pacific Ocean and the location that I’ve got highlighted is generally colder than normal. The sea surface temperatures help to drive convection, which is to say, to help to drive precipitation in that part of the world.

When it's colder than normal there's less precipitation, there's less upward moving air, and the global circulation is in fact altered. And the circulation is altered enough that it impacts the climate that occurs over the United States. It really impacts the climate globally, but we're going to focus on the United States today.

So there is an ongoing La Niña event and it should last throughout the winter months. And so what we can do, then, is, we can prepare an analog forecast where we can look at the temperature that normally occurs when there's a La Niña event during December, January, and February, and in this case, we can look at what happened on average During February, March, and April.

So the top plot I’ve got is the percent of years with above-normal temperatures in February through April when there's a wintertime La Niña. And then I’ve got the same statistic but broken out by each month. And so we see across much of the southern United States the forecast that you would make from this symbol analog forecast would be for generally warmer than normal conditions during February, March, and April.

And in fact, by diving into the details on the road below, we see that, in general, we can expect warmer than average temperatures from February and March across the southeastern and eastern United States, and then more focused on the western core of the mountain States during the month of April.

Now I will admit this is a very simple forecast and when we published a forecast report for, say, the winter, which we just released, we actually look at 10 different analogs along with the dynamic models and the statistical models and we were all of that information together to try to come up with our best assessment of what's likely going to happen and then what are the risks to that scenario not occurring. But in this case, we're going to use a simple approach in part because La Niña is such a powerful event when they occur.

So remember that map for a moment. So this is a map of the growing season days increases since 1981. So this is very similar. It's the same methodology that Bernadette applied, but we applied it to a database of county-level weather data that is daily in resolution from 1981. So we see the map is generally green, which is to say that the number of days in the growing season has increased in a bunch of locations. 

But as Bernadette highlighted, there are a few locations where, in fact, the pink color indicates shortening of the growing season. So it's not uniform lengthening, but we would expect over the very long term, as Bernadette described, the winter becoming shorter and shorter, and over many years we're going to see this change will completely green the map, eventually. And then we also see, there are some counties, where the growing season essentially lasts all year long and no surprise it's in the southern portion of the country.

So, then, we can also then look at the average start of the growing season, right? So where the last map was the length of the growing season, we're now looking at the average start of the growing season, which is defined as the day of the last freeze in the first half of the year. So in the very southern parts of the country, the growing season might start in January or early February, and then, as we go further north we see that it's as late as June in places associated with the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. And this actually aligns very well with one of the maps that Theresa showed interestingly.

When Does the Growing Season Start?

So then we can focus that in a little bit further, and we can look at the locations in the United States where the average start of the growing season is somewhere between January and mid-April, which is to say, somewhere in what we would call spring. So again we see the core of this region is in the southeastern United States. This happens to be the region most impacted by La Niña events, so La Niña events tend to be dry and warm in the southeast.

We can combine all this together and make a quick analysis. So the forecast for the spring then relative to pollen is that there's an increasing growing season, an increase in length of the growing season, which Bernadette highlighted is related to higher pollen counts in general. But in addition, there’s a La Niña event, which increases the likelihood of warmer than average temperatures across the southeastern United States.

So what that means is there's likely an early start to the growing season across much of the southeastern United States. And so the map that little map that I've got is regions where the start of the growing season is earlier. Combining all that together, it suggests that there's a likely early start to the pollen season across the southeastern United States this year. 

With this information, then we can take a look at what the likely spring is going to look like. December 1st is pretty early to take a look at the spring, but the fact that there's a La Niña going on provides some confidence of what's likely going to occur. And so I would say that the likely outcome is going to be an early start to the pollen season across the southeast United States. That's it, thank you very much.

Nancy Colleton: Thank you, Dr. Dutton. That's really interesting. And as much as these case studies have been focused on the United States, our next speaker Paul Walsh has the important role to help us apply all of this in this ‘so what’ mode and give us some case studies that are beyond the US and what these examples can teach us about other markets and what we can do about it. So Paul?

Leveraging Environmental Intelligence Technology

Paul Walsh: Okay, great. Hello everybody. Great to be here. Just a point of privilege, Jan and I have worked together for, gosh I don't know, 10 years? 10-11 years? And I can say that the data that he’s sharing, you can basically, within the realm of probabilities, take it to the bank. So it's very encouraging, I think, for a lot of people listening in. Plus, except for the people who suffer from allergies, it looks like an early start to spring, but for people that are selling medicine to help people deal with it, I think that's good news.

What I want to do today is I'm going to give you a brief overview of BreezoMeter. For those of you that don't know who BreezoMeter is, we'll go through that pretty quickly. Really, what I want to do is sort of share how businesses and governments are beginning to leverage the kind of data that we just talked about to basically create better outcomes for their customers or for their citizens if it's a government-related exercise.

I always like to start when I'm talking about this with a quote from Peter Drucker. I'm not sure exactly what he said, but it's very famous in terms of this sort of statement which is, “if you can't measure it, you can't manage it”, and I always like to turn that on its head. And by turning it on its head, the way I phrase it is, “if you can measure it, you can manage it”. 

So, when we're talking about the kind of data that we just talked about, this really valuable sort of hyper-local information as it relates to the environment and the way it relates to all of us, all of our human health, it gives you that sort of framework or the foundation for how collectively we are, both as businesses as well as governments, beginning to leverage data. Technology is really what's the enabler for this. Technology, machine learning, and all of this you hear about all the time are sort of the enablers of what enables us to do that. I just said enabled three times in a row, so I promise not to say that again. 

BreezoMeter’s Mission and Solution

Just for those of you that don't know BreezoMeter, we're a startup but we've been around for about seven years and we’re really focused on helping people leverage data, the way I just described it, to improve their health and also their safety. 

So it's really focused on the external environment, how that external environment is changing, measuring the effect of the external environment on people at a hyper-local level, and then using that data to communicate to them via what we call health-focused environmental intelligence, so that we can on a day to day basis, make better and safer and healthier decisions based on what the conditions are like outside, and how that might be impacting our health. Obviously, pollen and allergy are a big piece of that so this conference we're doing today and the folks that are on the call are just absolutely stellar.

Very quickly, you know, I mentioned we're a startup but it ain't bragging if it's true and I will state very loudly and proudly that we're the world's leading provider of enterprise-scale and also hyper-local environmental data intelligence. This is a list of some of our customers. 

One of the customers that we're most proud of, and for those of you that have an iPhone you have access to the data, you may have even used our data before, but we're the native air quality provider on every iPhone on the planet. I think we're up to about 13 or 14 countries now. So every day our data is available to 400-500 billion people. So we're up to about 500 billion people, ish, plus or minus. 

The reason that that's important is that in order for people to make healthier decisions they need to have עood data at their fingertips. And so that's one of the things that's really helped us sort of expand the use of this kind of super important data, highly valuable data, and highly critical data for us to help us sort of live our lives healthier. Think of what's happening now in New Delhi, for example.

Basically, our database is available across all the Apple platforms, including Siri. So just a quick sort of overview of who we are and what we do.

Environmental Insights Application - Propeller Health Case Study

In terms of the application of the data, it’s one thing to have data. It's one thing to have even very hyper-accurate data. But really what you need to be able to do to sort of create value for people, for customers, for citizens, is to be able to translate that data into something that specifically correlates to some kind of an outcome, in this case, we're talking about health outcomes.

So what I want to do now is share with you a case study that we just published officially a couple of days ago, so this is very well timed, I should say. This case study was with Propeller Health. 

Propeller Health is a leading digital therapeutics company operating in the US and across Europe. You have a connected inhaler and what they're doing basically is they are leveraging environmental data, in this case, they are using our environmental insights as it relates to both pollen in air quality, and they're bringing that into the inhaler. So when somebody uses the inhaler it brings that data in and it's measuring what the conditions are like when they're using the inhaler. 

From that, it can then predict the kind of conditions that require somebody to use the inhaler and it provides predictive information so that the person is understanding that the next day, the next couple of days, may be risky for them in terms of going outside. Make sure that they have enough medicine if they're going to go outside, and basically adjust their life cycle to be able to avoid the ill effects of bad air quality and or bad pollen.

Again, this is available under BreezoMeter.com, you can read the full study there, but you can see that it resulted in, across a period of a year, so this is a pretty in-depth study, it resulted in 84% fewer asthma symptoms, as people were using this data to avoid the conditions that are going to cause triggers. Reduced COPD-related healthcare outcomes by 35%, and reduced hospitalizations for asthma by about 57%.

These are big numbers, and it's an example of how leveraging data like we just went through, whether it's data that Theresa is collecting, understanding how the longer-term changes are happening that Bernadette shared with us, and then taking the data like that Jan shared and being able to provide you a statistical probabilistic outlook in terms of the upcoming season to help you make better decisions.

For example, with what Jan just shared, if you're a large pharmaceutical company, if you are in the marketing sort of part of that organization, you might be looking at this saying, well wait, maybe, maybe we should be making a bet in terms of increasing our marketing spending in the southeast earlier this year. Because if the pollen season begins earlier, it just stands to reason that the allergy season will start earlier. 

And so, therefore, if you are in the market and you're telling people about your product at the right place at the right time, and talking to the right people, you're going to have a bigger impact in terms of making sure that they have the medicines that they need at the right time.

It gets kind of complicated because you need to be able to sort of translate even that data into something. Propeller Health is integrating it into something that's actually moving the needle in terms of outcomes. But the key point here is that the kind of data that is needed to be able to make those inputs, those insights, and those actions, is largely available now. The key is being able to connect the dots, just like we're connecting the dots on this call today. Talking about climate, talking about the data that's available via Theresa and the phenology network, which is also a new word for me. 

And also, understanding what the capabilities are in terms of us being able to look forward, either seasonally or sub season, which is looking for the next three to five weeks all of those things are there and it's really just a matter of being able to connect those together to be able to create outcomes that ultimately are going to be better for us as citizens, better for us as customers, and will help us be better prepared, for example, for the pollen season that, as you saw, is getting longe. 

It's also, I don't think we talked about it today, Bernadette Maybe you can correct me here, but I think it's also getting more potent as the climate is changing. So it's really really important to be able to measure and predict and integrate these kinds of insights into our daily lives so that we can be better prepared and be more resilient.

Historical Air Quality and Pollen Data

The last thing I want to do is just want to announce the fact that we're creating a new capability here within BreezoMeter where we're creating a historical database of pollen. 

So we've created basically indexes that enable us to measure a lot of different pollen types and we've been obviously doing that for several years, and you can get that data on BreezoMeter.com or download our app so you can get hyper-local pollen data. But we've taken those same models and we've turned them back backwards, so we've created a historical database. 

For the pollen history, it's five years of daily history, more than 100 countries and multiple different varieties that, again, will be available in January, and the same with air quality. Obviously, it's super important to have air quality history to be able to create the correlations, and this is true of pollen as well, against different types of health outcomes with that history. Then you can then create forecasts models, by bringing the forecast data that aligns with that to help people better understand how the seasons are going to change.

So again, just like with the example I just gave from Propeller Health, help people be more proactive on a daily basis. And by doing so, again back to the Propeller Health example, reduce hospitalizations, which obviously there's a tremendous ROI there, both in terms of human health but also from a commercial perspective in terms of costs. So that's something that's happening, and it will be available and if you're interested in that just reach out and we will give you more information on it. 

I think actually that's my last slide, Nancy.

Takeaways and Q&A

Nancy Colleton: Thank you, Paul. I think all of these presentations were just wonderful. Thank you so much. I'd like to jump into some questions, and I'll remind everyone who's watching today to please, if you have any questions, feel free to put them in the chat and when we get to them we’ll direct them to our various panelists. Let's start out with one important question and that's something you brought up, Paul.

Is pollen actually becoming more potent as the growing season increases? Are we seeing studies that say that?

Paul Walsh: Bernadette, since I name-dropped you...

Bernadette Woods Placky: I feel like I have to. I will say I am in no way shape or form the ultimate researcher on this. One of the guys, I'm going to put his name out there, is Louise Scott. This guy is just an amazing scientist on the subject of people who want to go to that level. What we've learned with some of his research is there are indications that the potency, there is some connection.

He's done a lot more research on that with poison Ivy, interestingly enough, and how that's absolutely exploding with the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. So it's two things we've been talking about here. The temperature increase that comes with more carbon dioxide atmosphere, but the actual carbon dioxide itself is having an effect.

So both pieces are playing into this here. The thing that really is loving all this extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is our weeds and different weeding systems and pollens. So that is where we're seeing these numbers grow up, but I do think that this is a conversation, everyone has put this out there, and I will also, the more data, the more we learn, and the more we can understand how this is really expanding. I love Theresa's idea of how they're looking at these different case studies right now to make even another connection with our pollen seasons and our allergy season. So I'm so excited to learn more about that, Theresa.

Nancy Colleton: Okay. One other question I have is:

If what we're expecting to see as far as the increase in carbon dioxide, warmer temperatures, and, as you pointed out, potentially more potent pollen, if this is the new normal is how much worse can it get?

Theresa Crimmins: I'd be happy to try to take a stab. I don't know right on top of my head of studies that have done future projections of pollen concentrations. But what I can speak to more generally, is that there's a lot of research, trying to ascertain, again, what are the drivers and the limiting factors that either enable plans to take advantage of changing conditions or might have some sort of constraint on their ability to continue to adapt right now. 

What we're seeing a lot of is with warmer temperatures earlier and earlier in the year, a lot of plants are advancing their behavior, their flowering or they're leaving. However, there will be limits to that. In some cases, it's because there was research. Actually, that was just covered in the news earlier, just a few days ago. 

A wonderful place to kind of look ahead at what we might expect, because in urban areas, it tends to be warmer than in the surrounding areas. So we can kind of use that as a proxy for what conditions may be like in the future. And so we can look at what plants are doing in those urban areas compared to the outlying areas. And what we see again, is there are a lot of species that do advance their phenology to a greater extent in those warmer areas. 

However, some of those plants are not only limited or their phenology is constrained not only by temperature but also by dealing. And so, you can run up against a situation where it may be warm very early in the year, but if the plant isn't being exposed to a long enough day where the sun hasn't gotten high enough in the sky in the northern hemisphere, it may not respond. 

This research that just came out was looking at urban areas because they also have artificial light, and this is clever to see does the artificial light kind of compensate for that limited number of daylight hours that you see earlier in the year. And actually, yes it does. And so these urban areas are actually enabling plants to advance, both of those limitations are being lifted. 

But the point that I'm really trying to make here is, we don't really know specifically. We can't just draw a line and project forward how things might go in the future necessarily based on how much they've changed already, because there may be other factors at play. Biological interactions or other abiotic conditions that constrain them.

So how's that for a good scientific nonanswer?

Nancy Colleton: That's a great answer, scientific or not scientific, it's a great answer.

Bernadette Woods Placky: I’m going to jump in real quick, though, because I'll put the researcher from the graphic that I showed with the projections. That was a lab steady, and this is where Theresa's getting at. Real-world always adds another dimension, right? But in the lab study that was done, what they did is they simulated different carbon dioxide levels, and they're seeing growth across the board with the different carbon dioxide levels. 

And that's where when I showed the projections, I mean, you have to show a range going forward because, one, our future world depends on our choices today. I mean if we continue on our current path, we’ll be on the higher end of those carbon dioxide levels, which leads to the higher end of the warming, which, in a lab setting shows that sort of a maximum. But then again, as Theresa said, the real-world biological interactions and light and all of that come into. So I'll put that researcher from that specific report in the chat also.

Nancy Colleton: That would be a great resource. We are getting some questions in now. So I do have one here, can someone detail the different pollen types, and are some more problematic than others given the size of pollen spores? And Theresa, I guess, I have another question for you. We got such a great overview of the US phenology network, and we know that we have global meteorological data.

Is there any kind of international phenology network?

Theresa Crimmins: It's really a country by country. Except in Europe, it's a kind of a pan European for knowledge network or PEP, that's the name of the program there. But yes, actually the USA national phenology network was modeled after phenology networks that have existed in other countries for a whole lot longer. 

In some countries, things have been monitored formally for centuries. In Japan, it tends to be monasteries and other facilities that are very long-standing. I think Japan might win the record for the longest ongoing research, where they are keeping track of when cherries are flowering. There was some recent research that showed that it's ridiculously earlier in just the past decade than all the way back to 1200 or whatever, however far back it goes. 

Yes, there's not an umbrella organization through which you can access all of the different phenology networks' data sets. Yet. That's being facilitated kind of on the fly here. There's work to develop a phenology ontology, which is, what are those little rings you used to get that would give you the decoder? It allows you to put data sets together and then analyze them together because they've been collected in different ways and using different protocols.

But that's actively happening because it is such an important thing to be able to look not just at the country, but like you're saying, globally, and how are things changing, are there consistencies or differences among these different locations?

Nancy Colleton: Yeah. Now to our panel again. Paul, as you've pointed out, each one of you panelists brings a different piece of the puzzle to the story. I'm just wondering, as we think through this, what are some of the key questions that still need to be answered.

Paul, as you think about products and delivering more products to help people better manage allergies, manage their breathing, or better protect themselves, what pieces of the puzzle do we still need?

Paul Walsh: Before I go there, one of the questions that I think Eric asked was about different pollen types. I think we can take that separately, because we look at all the different policy types, but they don't really have an answer in terms of the sort of the climate impact on it.

Certainly from a business perspective in the way that they're looking at this, if we think about the pharmaceutical industry, one of the big challenges that they have every year is because the pollen seasons are getting longer but they're also not static. In other words, the season starts two or three weeks earlier one year, the next year might be two or three weeks later. The peak, which is really important for them, is understanding when is it peak season, that is also changing.

And so, increasingly they're leveraging data kinda like what we just talked about here, where they can get the sort of the granular data to be able to sort of correlate that to their specific business types, whether it's an antihistamine or allergy medicine. So they can better predict how much medicine they're going to be needing in the upcoming year. And also better predict when the season is going to start peaking so that they can make sure that they have the product distributed, the inventory in the right places at the right time. That's been historically a huge challenge every single year.

And what we're able to do now, or we're getting better at, is our ability to monitor, measure, and even predict how those seasons are going to change. And by doing that, providing insight into these large pharmaceutical companies, so that they can make sure that their products are in the right place at the right time, and that their customers know it's in the right place at the right time. 

So just to take it back to 30,000 feet and look at even the information that we shared today and the great information Jan shared. The quick takeaway is that what looks like the southeastern US is going to be starting earlier this year than last year. This is a huge population area and having that information can provide some really valuable insights in terms of being able to plan for that. 

And then also, of course, there was a big storm in Texas last February that basically froze Texas out and probably caused a bit of a delay in the season there as well. So there may be some real opportunities there early. All of those things I just mentioned come from taking these disparate pieces of really rich data that we just talked about and combining that and then integrating that ultimately into a business process, whether it's product planning, inventory planning, marketing planning. It all sort of comes together. 

Historically, that's always been kind of a crapshoot from year to year. These large companies are making bets. Well, when you have information like this, even and especially, I should say, you're on probabilistic information. Now you have information that's going to help you make a decision that, while it might not be 100% right, at least you're using science and you're using the best available information to be able to make the best possible decision. 

And that's how the world is changing and the world is becoming, from a business perspective, moving from what used to be, you make a plan, so if we're using pollen season and the pharmaceutical industry, you make a plan and you hope for the best and you use last year, or use a formation of average to make that plan. And then, if it doesn't work, you just kind of do your best.

The new paradigm that we're living in now is that we're able to basically anticipate, using the data using, the science, leveraging machine learning, all of these wonderful technologies that we have to be able to be more scientifically proactive and make more intelligent decisions that are science-based and move from there. And that's what's happening in the world now.

And it's a very good thing. Because when you do all of those kinds of things, that creates resilience and enables us to work better or live better lives. Even given the fact that the pollen season is getting longer, it's changing, it's moving from South to North, so how do you deal with that, you deal with that by leveraging data like we just talked about. Leveraging analytics like the predictions that you just gave and then leveraging the capability to integrate that into mobile apps and all of the tools that we have. So to me, it's very encouraging and exciting to see all of this coming together to help us better live our lives in this condition, in these changing conditions that are having a direct impact on our health.

And just one last point, because I'm on a roll. Air pollution, if we just use look at air pollution, it results in about 7 million deaths every year, divided between indoor and outdoor air pollution. It's a really, really big and growing problem. It’s equivalent, if not larger, than the Covid problem that we're seeing right now.

And so having this kind of data and insight to help us deal with the day-to-day changes in the weather it’s just really important. I'm encouraged every day to see the cool new things that we've got. And of course, I've got my pals Jan and Bernadette and Theresa and everybody sort of coming together to create these new cool applications. All right, I'll get off my soapbox now.

Nancy Colleton: That’s awesome. I think the point about the suffering as a result of air pollution compared to Covid is a good one. But I think when we talk about climate change so much, you know we often hear about climate change as a threat multiplier. And so when you combine poor air quality along with an increase in pollen for allergies, and you add wildfire issues, I mean the fact that we need the kinds of products that you all provide becomes more and more important every day. It's just not good enough anymore to know and do great science. We have to communicate it in ways that we as businesses, as nonprofit organizations, global development organizations, or just individuals, can take action.

So, as we come to a close, here at 12:27 we've got a few minutes, I would like to ask each of our panelists to just give me a very brief answer on, let's say that if we were going to reconvene a year from now and look at today's conversation. What we'd like to see happen over the next year, or what's the piece of the puzzle that we'd like to provide that may not be provided today.

What might that be to really advance this idea of climate allergy risk, so that we all can better understand it?

Maybe Bernadette I could start with you. What do we need to advance?

Bernadette Woods Placky: Unfortunately, my answer is not going to be solved in a year. But we can make moves now. We all talked about data, I do think that is important. And what Theresa said also about connected data systems. Because when you want to really assess a climate impact on something, it's great to have data, but you need more universal long-term data to be able to tease out where we're seeing trends, where we're seeing how that's affected these other things.

So that's not something we're going to solve in a year, but love hearing how universally trying to think through data sets that can be brought together that we can analyze and learn more. And then I do have to put your point too, Nancy, about communication. How do we get this information out to the public so people understand, because the goal really is to keep them prepared and safe.

Nancy Colleton: Great well, thank you. Let's move on to Jan.

Jan Dutton: Yeah, so I have no idea what the answer is. What I do know is that something will emerge, whether it be data or an analysis technique or a technology or something, right? We're always moving forward. One year from now, we'll be in a better position to answer these kinds of questions than we were today. So something will emerge.

Nancy Colleton: Thank you, Jan. Theresa?

Theresa Crimmins: Bernadette kind of stole my answer. For sure data, you know. I look at everything through the lens of phenology, and so my aim is to continue to increase by orders of magnitude recognition among everybody in the country in the world of what phenology is and take up that mantle of documenting it so that we can use that information to continue to understand how these two things are changing and what the impacts are downstream. Use that information to better forecast what we might anticipate in terms of the timing of events in plants and animals too. Because it impacts so many facets of our lives. 

The short answer is I'd love to see us really increase data collection on the ground.

Nancy Colleton: Excellent. Thank you, Theresa. Paul, your answer, please.

Paul Walsh: Okay. I think one of the most encouraging things for me, from somebody that's been in the space for more than 20 years, is the interest from businesses and organizations and investors in this field called climate tech. There are startups popping up. Every six hours it seems there's a new startup looking to solve a different type of sort of climate tech problem. I think over the next year that trend is only going to continue. So when you've got the private sector looking to solve these kinds of problems like we're doing a BreezoMeter frankly, I think that gives me hope. Because at the end of the day, it’s that sort of ground-level entrepreneurial spirit that's going to be driving a lot of the solutions going forward. And it's just taking off. It's on fire right now that the whole planet tech space.

Nancy Colleton: That's so important, Paul. And I guess my two takeaways or two thoughts I'd like to leave everyone with are, first off what superb scientists and communicators you all are and thank you for being that. 

And secondly, the fact that we have the private sector, non-governmental organizations, universities, represented here today goes on to show all of us that no one sector has the ability to deal with this problem. We need everything.

And so with that, I'd like to thank all of our speakers today. And also all of you that took part in this. Whether you got up early, stayed up late, or if this is the middle of your business day, thank you for joining us. And thank you to BreezoMeter specifically for convening us all here today. So with that, please know that you'll be getting a note tomorrow, probably with a link to this recording. Just great, thank you to our panelists. 

Paul Walsh: Thank you Nancy for organizing this. You're awesome.