Clouds Alive With Bacteria

Posted on March 2, 2008  Comments (1)

Clouds above the Mesa Trail by John Hunter

Earth’s Clouds Alive With Bacteria

Clouds are alive with tiny bacteria that grab up water vapor in the atmosphere to make cloud droplets, especially at warmer temperatures, a new study shows.

The water droplets and ice crystals that make up clouds don’t usually form spontaneously in the atmosphere – they need a solid or liquid surface to collect on. Tiny particles of dust, soot and airplane exhaust – and even bacteria – are known to provide these surfaces, becoming what atmospheric scientists call cloud condensation nuclei (CCN).

These microbes could be carried into the atmosphere from an infected plant by winds, strong updrafts or the dust clouds that follow tractors harvesting a field. Christner and others suspect that becoming cloud nuclei is a strategy for the pathogen to get from plant to plant, since it can be carried for long distances in the atmosphere and come down with a cloud’s rain.

The next step in determining how big a role biological particles play in cloud droplet formation is to directly sample the clouds themselves, Christner says.

Related: What’s Up With the Weather?20 Things You Didn’t Know About SnowRare “Rainbow” Over IdahoBacteria Living in Glacier – photo by John Hunter, on the Mesa Trail, Colorado

One Response to “Clouds Alive With Bacteria”

  1. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Lighting in Slow Motion
    February 6th, 2009 @ 2:12 pm

    […] posts on weather – Clouds Alive With Bacteria by curiouscat   Tags: Podcast, Science, Students   Permalink to: Lighting in Slow […]

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