Bio-particles trigger ice formation in cloudsMay 18th, 2009 - 5:01 pm ICT by IANS
Washington, May 18 (IANS) A recent analysis of ice crystals, collected while an aircraft was flying through clouds, revealed that they were made up almost entirely of either dust or bacteria, fungal spores and plant material.
While it has long been known that micro-organisms or parts of them get airborne and travel great distances, this study is the first to yield in-situ data on their participation in forming cloud ice.
“If we understand the sources of particles that nucleate clouds and their relative abundance, then we can determine the impact of these different sources on climate,” said the study’s author, doctoral student Kerri Pratt, working under Kim Prather, at the chemistry and biochemistry department, University of California San Diego (UCSD).
These are the results of the Ice in Clouds Experiment - Layer Clouds (ICE-L), funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).
The effects of tiny airborne particles called aerosols on cloud formation have been some of the most difficult aspects of weather and climate for scientists to understand.
In the climate change science field, which derives many of its projections from computer simulations of climate phenomena, the actions of aerosols on clouds represent what scientists consider the greatest uncertainty in modelling predictions for the future.
“By sampling clouds in real time from an aircraft, these investigators were able to get information about ice particles in clouds at an unprecedented level of detail,” said Anne-Marine Schmoltner of the NSF’s Division of Atmospheric Sciences.
“By determining the chemical composition of the very cores of individual ice particles, they discovered that both mineral dust, and, surprisingly, biological particles play a major role in the formation of clouds.”
Aerosols, ranging from dust, soot, sea salt to organic materials, some of which travel thousands of miles, form the skeletons of clouds. Around these nuclei, water and ice in the atmosphere condense and grow leading to precipitation, said an UCSD release.
Scientists are trying to understand how they form as clouds play a critical role by both cooling the atmosphere and affect regional precipitation processes.
These findings appeared in Sunday’s online edition of Nature Geoscience.
- Scientists move closer to "holy grail" of climate change science - May 18, 2009
- Dust in Earth's atmosphere has doubled since the beginning of 20th century - Jan 09, 2011
- Air pollution aggravates drought, flooding - Nov 14, 2011
- Shattered glass can tell a lot about future climate change - Dec 28, 2010
- Sulphuric acid formation affects climate, health - Aug 09, 2012
- Aerosols may impact climate more than estimated - Aug 02, 2011
- Understanding critical nucleus in haze formation - Jun 17, 2010
- Earth is 'twice as dusty' now as it was a century ago - Jan 14, 2011
- Half of aerosols in America originate from other continents - Aug 23, 2012
- New software enhances climate change research - Aug 19, 2010
- Gulf spill air pollution could shed light on urban air quality - Mar 11, 2011
- Scientists find plumes of oily aerosols downwind of the BP oil spill - Mar 12, 2011
- Plants clean 'air to a greater extent than we think' - Oct 22, 2010
- Aerosols in clouds may decrease rainfall in southeastern China - Sep 26, 2009
- Scientist offers better ways to engineer Earth's climate to prevent global warming - Sep 08, 2010
Tags: biochemistry department, biological particles, california san diego, chemical composition, climate change science, climate phenomena, cloud ice, computer simulations, formation of clouds, fungal spores, layer clouds, micro organisms, mineral dust, national science foundation, relative abundance, science field, situ data, tiny airborne particles, university of california san diego, weather and climate