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MeteoSwiss Switzerland to create world’s first real-time pollen monitoring system

A pollen storm at Rottannen near Erstfeld in the Reuss Valley on April 27, 2018

A pollen storm at Rottannen in the Reuss Valley in central Switzerland on April 27, 2018

(© KEYSTONE / URS FLUEELER)

Allergy sufferers will be able to get more reliable, real-time information on pollen levels in Switzerland when an automated national pollen monitoring system is launched in 2023 – a world first. 

Switzerland is set to become the first country in the world to introduce a national real-time pollen monitoring network across its entire territory. MeteoSwiss external linkis currently a European leader in this domain and leads an ad hoc programme of the European EUMETNET network, which brings together eleven weather services on the continent. 

Since 2010, the Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology (MeteoSwiss) has been testing five real-time pollen measuring systems. 

Two systems from Switzerland are based on the same principle. Pollen pass through laser beams, which provide information on the size and shape of the particles. Other lasers make the particles fluorescent, revealing their composition. 

A prototype from Lucerne also records an image of each pollen grain in flight and creates a kind of hologram. In both systems, information on particle size, shape and composition allows pollen to be identified using artificial intelligence and algorithms. 

MeteoSwiss currently measures pollen concentrations manually once a week at 15 monitoring stationsexternal link across the country using pollen traps. The time-consuming process means that the results are only available after 2-9 days. 

MeteoSwiss says in the future allergy sufferers will be able to plan outdoor activities and preventive medical treatment much better with more reliable forecasts. Doctors and pharmaceutical companies and climatologists will also be able to use the network data. 

The new system is estimated to cost CHF3-4 million ($3-4 million) to install. The indirect costs of lost productivity and sick days related to pollen allergies are estimated at between CHF1-3.5 billion francs a year in Switzerland. 

Keystone SDA/sb

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