Why are there so many ‘red’ pollen alerts this year in France?

By the end of May, 90 of France's 96 mainland départements had been placed on 'red' alert for elevated levels of pollen.

Why are there so many 'red' pollen alerts this year in France?
A European dark bee collects pollen from a dandelion flower in France (Photo by IROZ GAIZKA / AFP)

Almost all – 90 out of 96 – of France’s mainland départements – have been placed on red alert for high pollen counts and risk of allergy symptoms, according to France’s National Aerobioligical Monitoring Network (Réseau national de surveillance aérobiologique, or RNSA).

The remaining départements, mostly located in France’s west, were Finistère, Morbihan, Ille-et-Vilaine, Mayenne, Orne and Sarthe, and they were placed on the ‘yellow’, or medium alert. 

The RNSA updated their note on Monday saying that all départements are expected to be affected by high pollen counts and elevated allergy risks this week.

“Grass pollens are gaining strength from the south to the north of the country”, RNSA wrote. 

This year, there were pollen alerts issued in the later months of winter, which is unusual for the season, and anecdotally, people across France have noticed more severe allergy symptoms than typically.

“Usually, it’s not as bad, but this year, I really feel that it’s different here. There’s a lot more pollen and I feel it in my itchy nose, my itchy throat,” one woman told TF1 channel on Monday.

Experts point to May weather as the culprit for high pollen counts this year. A representative from the RNSA told the TF1 channel that rain at the start of May “brought some respite to those who suffer from allergies by pressing the pollen into the ground, but now they have led to more grass growth”. With recent sunny weather, there has been more dispersion of grass pollen throughout the air, according to the organisation.

Other experts, like Samuel Monnier at the RNSA, explained to TF1 that climate change has impacted high pollen counts. Birch, a highly allergenic tree, has seen its pollen counts have jumped by 20 percent in the last 30 years.

“This is linked to climate change, and in particular to rising temperatures and CO2 concentrations, which are two key factors that increase the amount of pollen emitted by trees.

“It also leads to flowering earlier and pollen seasons being lengthened”, Monnier told TF1.

In urban areas, pollution can also worsen allergy symptoms, allergist Dr. Marie-Laure Megret-Gabeaud told TF1.

Experts recommend that those who suffer from allergies take simple steps, such as avoiding outdoor sports, rinsing and brushing hair often to remove pollen, and airing out the home prior to sunrise and after sunset.

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France braces for more record-breaking hot weather on Monday

After an exceptionally warm start to October, forecasters warn that France is in for another day of record-breaking heat.

France braces for more record-breaking hot weather on Monday

Heat records were broken across France on Sunday, according to France’s national weather forecaster, Météo France, and more are expected to be broke on Monday as the country contends with exceptionally warm weather for the start of October.

Temperatures ranging from 32C to 34C are expected in much of the centre and south-west of the country, while parts of southern France, namely in Béarn in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques département, could see the mercury rise up to 36C.

North-western France is forecast to remain cooler than the rest of the country, with maximum temperatures expected around 25C.

The majority of the country is expected to see temperatures at least 7C above seasonal norms, with central France looking at a difference of 12C to 14C in predicted temperatures for Monday versus seasonal averages.

How long will the heat last?

Forecasters expect temperatures to drop down on Tuesday, as a cool air mass moves in from the Atlantic.

Later in the week, temperatures are expected to begin warming up again.

The hot Monday came after a particularly warm weekend, where some highs across the country were 10C above averages expected for this time of year, according to Météo France cited by Le Parisien, who had predicted that a ‘dome of heat’ would settle over France on Sunday and Monday.

On Sunday, Météo France found that a ‘string of records’ were broken for hottest temperatures recorded on October 1st. Aix-en-Provence reached a record high (for the month of October) of 31C,  while Poitiers reached 31.2C, Bordeaux recorded 32.5C and Toulouse recorded 33C.

The warm temperatures also come after France’s hottest September ever recorded, which saw an average countrywide temperature 21.5C.

READ MORE: September 2023 to be France’s hottest September ever