Allergy Asthma Immunol Res.  2020 Mar;12(2):259-273. 10.4168/aair.2020.12.2.259.

Allergenic Pollen Calendar in Korea Based on Probability Distribution Models and Up-to-Date Observations

  • 1Applied Meteorology Research Division, National Institute of Meteorological Sciences, Seogwipo, Korea.
  • 2Department of Pediatrics, Hanyang University Guri Hospital, Hanyang University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.


The pollen calendar is the simplest forecasting method for pollen concentrations. As pollen concentrations are liable to seasonal variations due to alterations in climate and land-use, it is necessary to update the pollen calendar using recent data. To attenuate the impact of considerable temporal and spatial variability in pollen concentrations on the pollen calendar, it is essential to employ a new methodology for its creation.
A pollen calendar was produced in Korea using data from recent observations, and a new method for creating the calendar was proposed, considering both risk levels and temporal resolution of pollen concentrations. A probability distribution was used for smoothing concentrations and determining risk levels. Airborne pollen grains were collected between 2007 and 2017 at 8 stations; 13 allergenic pollens, including those of alder, Japanese cedar, birch, hazelnut, oak, elm, pine, ginkgo, chestnut, grasses, ragweed, mugwort and Japanese hop, were identified from the collected grains.
The concentrations of each pollen depend on locations and seasons due to large variability in species distribution and their environmental condition. In the descending order of concentration, pine, oak and Japanese hop pollens were found to be the most common in Korea. The pollen concentrations were high in spring and autumn, and those of oak and Japanese hop were probably the most common cause of allergy symptoms in spring and autumn, respectively. High Japanese cedar pollen counts were observed in Jeju, while moderate concentrations were in Jeonju, Gwangju and Busan.
A new methodology for the creation of a pollen calendar was developed to attenuate the impact of large temporal and spatial variability in pollen concentrations. This revised calendar should be available to the public and allergic patients to prevent aggravation of pollen allergy.


Pollen; seasons; rhinitis, allergic, seasonal; climate; oak; Japanese cedar; birch; ragweed; mugwort

MeSH Terms

Asian Continental Ancestry Group
Ginkgo biloba
Rhinitis, Allergic, Seasonal


  • Fig. 1 Locations of pollen collecting stations.

  • Fig. 2 Time series of annual total concentrations of (A) Alder, (B) Japanese cedar, (C) Birch, (D) Hazelnut, (E) Oak, (F) Grasses, (G) Ragweed, (H) Mugwort and (I) Japanese hop pollens in 8 stations during 2007–2017. The concentrations vary between stations. The spatial variability of pollen concentrations across South Korea is considerably high. Differences between the highest and lowest pollen concentrations within the same pollen type and station are considerable. This implies that the inter-annual variability in concentrations of the 13 pollen types is also considerably high.

  • Fig. 3 Time series of daily Alder pollen concentrations for (A) Seoul, (B) Daejeon, (C) Gangneung, (D) Daegu and (E) Busan stations between 2007 and 2017. Total concentrations, peak concentrations, and beginning and duration of the season vary with the year and station. The pollen concentration data in South Korea demonstrate wide variability in temporal and spatial characteristics.

  • Fig. 4 Plots of observed and Weibull fitted relative frequencies of (A) Alder, (B) Japanese cedar, (C) Birch and (D) Oak pollen concentrations at Seoul station. These results indicate that the daily pollen concentration data in South Korea follow the Weibull distribution. Benchmark values for individual pollen types and stations are calculated from the fitted Weibull distribution.

  • Fig. 5 Plots of observed and smoothed daily mean values of (A) Japanese cedar, (B) Hazelnut, (C) Ginkgo and (D) Chestnut pollen concentrations at Busan station. For smoothing the daily averages of pollen concentrations, selection of different distribution models was based on the most appropriate distribution for each pollen type and station according to Bayesian information criterion measures. The smoothed average concentrations successfully represent the patterns of the observed average concentrations.

  • Fig. 6 Pollen calendars for (A) Seoul, (B) Gangneung, (C) Daejeon and (D) Jeonju stations. To create the pollen calendar, benchmark estimates are applied to the smoothed average pollen concentrations based on the daily temporal scale. At the Seoul station, the peak concentrations of pine, oak, ginkgo and Japanese hop pollens are high (A). At the Gangneung station, the peak concentration of pine pollen is particularly high, while those of birch, oak, elm and mugwort pollens are moderate (B). The peak concentrations of oak and pine pollens are very high at the Daejeon station (C). At the Jeonju station, the peak concentration of pine pollen is very high and those of oak and elm pollens are high (D).

  • Fig. 7 Pollen calendars for (A) Gwangju, (B) Daegu, (C) Busan and (D) Jeju stations. Peak concentrations of pine and Japanese hop are very high at the Gwangju station (A). At the Daegu station, the peak concentrations of oak and Japanese hop are high (B). At the Busan station, very high and high levels are considered as the peak concentrations for pine and alder pollens, respectively (C). At the Jeju station, the peak concentrations of Japanese cedar and pine pollens are very high (D).

Cited by  1 articles

Revised Pollen Calendar in Korea
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Allergy Asthma Immunol Res. 2020;12(2):171-172.    doi: 10.4168/aair.2020.12.2.171.


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