Volunteer-contributed observations of flowering often correlate with airborne pollen concentrations

Theresa M. Crimmins, Elizabeth Vogt, Claudia L. Brown, Dan Dalan, Arie Manangan, Guy Robinson, Yiluan Song, Kai Zhu, Daniel S.W. Katz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Characterizing airborne pollen concentrations is crucial for supporting allergy and asthma management; however, pollen monitoring is labor intensive and, in the USA, geographically limited. The USA National Phenology Network (USA-NPN) engages thousands of volunteer observers in regularly documenting the developmental and reproductive status of plants. The reports of flower and pollen cone status contributed to the USA-NPN’s platform, Nature’s Notebook, have the potential to help address gaps in pollen monitoring by providing real-time, spatially explicit information from across the country. In this study, we assessed whether observations of flower and pollen cone status contributed to Nature’s Notebook can serve as effective proxies for airborne pollen concentrations. We compared daily pollen concentrations from 36 National Allergy Bureau (NAB) stations in the USA with flowering and pollen cone status observations collected within 200 km of each NAB station in each year, 2009–2021, for 15 common tree taxa using Spearman’s correlations. Of 350 comparisons, 58% of correlations were significant (p < 0.05). Comparisons could be made at the largest numbers of sites for Acer and Quercus. Quercus demonstrated a comparatively high proportion of tests with significant agreement (median ρ = 0.49). Juglans demonstrated the strongest overall coherence between the two datasets (median ρ = 0.79), though comparisons were made at only a small number of sites. For particular taxa, volunteer-contributed flowering status observations demonstrate promise to indicate seasonal patterns in airborne pollen concentrations. The quantity of observations, and therefore, their utility for supporting pollen alerts, could be substantially increased through a formal observation campaign.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1363-1372
Number of pages10
JournalInternational journal of biometeorology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2023


  • Citizen science
  • Nature’s Notebook
  • USA National Phenology Network
  • flowering
  • phenology
  • pollen monitoring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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