An operational model for forecasting ragweed pollen release and dispersion in Europe.
The paper considers the possibilities of modelling the release and dispersion of the pollen of common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia L.), a highly allergenic invasive weed, which is spreading through southern and central Europe. In order to provide timely warnings for the allergy sufferers, a model was developed for forecasting ragweed pollen concentrations in the air. The development was based on the system for integrated modelling of atmospheric composition (SILAM) and concentrated on spatio-temporal modelling of ragweed flowering season and pollen release, which constitutes the emission term. Evaluation of the new model against multi-annual ragweed pollen observations demonstrated that the model reproduces well the main ragweed pollen season in the areas with major plant presence, such as the Pannonian Plain, the Lyon area in France, the Milan region in Italy, Ukraine and southern Russia. The predicted start of the season is mostly within 3 days of the observed for the majority of stations in these areas. The temporal correlation between modelled and observed concentrations exceeds 0.6 for the bulk of the stations. Model application to the seasons of 2005-2011 indicated the regions with high ragweed pollen concentrations, in particular the areas where allergenic thresholds are exceeded. It is demonstrated that, due to long-range transport of pollen, high-concentration areas are substantially more extensive than the heavily infested territories.