A team of atmospheric chemists has moved closer to what’s considered the “holy grail” of climate change science: the first-ever direct detections of biological particles within ice clouds. Ice in Clouds Experiment – Layer Clouds (ICE-L) team mounted a mass spectrometer onto a C-130 aircraft and made a series of high-speed flights through a type of cloud known as a wave cloud. Analysis of the ice crystals revealed that the particles that started their growth were made up almost entirely of either dust or biological material such as bacteria, fungal spores and plant material. While it has long been known that microorganisms become airborne and travel great distances, this study is the first to yield direct data on how they work to influence cloud formation.
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