Unusually high levels of seasonal pollen create a visible sheen on water.
Observation by Tia Katcheak:
Attached are two not so good pictures of a yellow golden residue on our shoreline and people of the community are concerned for their fish. I've never had water sampling training before and would not know where to start. I stand right at the shore and it don't smell. People guessing that's pollen from trees and other say something from a volcano from months before. I don't know, everyone in the village doing a guessing game. Some believe its oil spill but still setting their nets for herring, they don't seem to be affected. I see it first hand, I ate eggs and the flesh of fish look normal to me.
Shared with Anahma Shannon via email
Mark Smith, Air Quality Meteorologist with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, writes:
Not an expert on pollen, but the yellow tint would led me to believe it was pollen.
Jeanne Osnas, Lead Vegetation Ecologist with the UAA Alaska Center for Conservation Science, writes:
Looks and sounds like pollen to me! Nontoxic. The tell for pollen vs oil would be whether or not pollen is also covering surfaces adjacent to the water or in the area from which the water flows. Given the season and location I would bet yes.
Comments from LEO Editors:
LEO has recently received several observations about the unusual abundance of spring pollen. Warm spring temperatures have resulted in a lot of birch and spruce pollen. This year, Fairbanks recorded birch pollen counts at 7,045 grains per cubic meter, setting a world record. Typical measurements are about 1,500 grains per cubic meter. In Alaska, pollen counts are only measured in Anchorage and Fairbanks. In the image below, the Fairbanks based Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Center of Alaska reports current high levels of tree pollen from alder, birch, cottonwood/aspen, and spruce.