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ISLAMABAD: The above-normal amount of rainfall expected in March has so far suppressed pollen release in the capital.

Pollen release usually begins in the first week of March in the twin cities and peaks in the middle of the month. But the rainy spell has delayed the onset of pollen season in Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

Figures released by the Met Office on Wednesday showed that the highest pollen count records in the capital was 209 particles per cubic metre (PCM) in E-8, followed by 196 PCM in G-6.

The pollen count from grasses this time last year was 430 PCM, which can affected those sensitive to these particles, as they remain low and float a few feet above ground level. The pollen count this time last year from paper mulberry was 445 PCM in H-8, and rising steadily.

Because of the limited number of pollen allergy complaints this year, the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences has yet to open its seasonal allergy centre.

The Pakistan Meteorological Department’s pollen monitoring unit has installed devices in H-8, E-8, F-10 and G-10. Pollen concentration increases gradually with the onset of spring and peaks around full blossom, ending usually by mid-April.

The most abundant pollen types in Islamabad are from eight species: paper mulberry, acacia, eucalyptus, pines, grasses, cannabis, dandelion and alternaria.

Of these, paper mulberry makes up around 97pc of the total pollen and its concentration touches the extreme limits of 40,000 PCM at the peak of blossoming season. As a result, people with asthma or respiratory diseases experience serious consequences due to the sharp increase in pollen concentrations.

The Met Office has predicted slightly above normal amounts of rainfall for the rest of the month in northern parts of the country, with normal amounts of rainfall elsewhere.

Regional and global environmental factors predict normal and above normal rainfall in March, the Met Office has said. There are predictions of hailstorms, thunderstorms and snowfall over the hills in various parts of the country.

Conditions in upper parts of the country today (Thursday) are expected to be cold and dry, with light rain-thunderstorms and light snowfall over the hills, accompanied by strong winds.

Rainfall is expected at isolated places in the Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Lahore, Sargodha, Faisalabad, Malakand and Hazara divisions, and Islamabad, Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir.

Published in Dawn, March 14th, 2019