In DepthMETEOROLOGY

Australian state forecasts deadly thunderstorm asthma

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Science  26 Jan 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6374, pp. 380
DOI: 10.1126/science.359.6374.380

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Summary

First identified in the 1980s, thunderstorm asthma is a phenomenon that meteorologists are just beginning to understand. It is known to require high pollen counts, along with thunderstorm winds that sweep up pollen grains. In the storm clouds, the grains absorb moisture, swell, and rupture into hundreds of smaller, more dangerous pieces. Riding cooler downdrafts that crash into Earth's surface, the pollen shrapnel can be spread across tens of kilometers. Earlier this month, researchers presented a study of seven thunderstorm asthma events in Melbourne, Australia, and found that high pollen levels, multiple storm cells, and strong winds played a role. Australia's Victoria state last year unveiled a forecasting system that gives residents 3 days' warning.