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Biological particles--bacteria, pollen, fungi--act as nuclei for formation of ice in clouds
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Image Courtesy of the National Center for Atmospheric Research

Scientists Make First Direct Observations of Biological Particles in High-Altitude Clouds
News story originally written on May 17, 2009

For a long time, scientists have known that microorganisms can get into the atmosphere and travel long distances. But a new study shows how they help influence cloud formation. The effects of these tiny airborne particles called aerosols on how clouds form has been very difficult for scientists to understand. This information can also help scientists understand how clouds affect the climate.

During the project, called Ice in Clouds Experiment - Layer Clouds (ICE-L), scientists studied water droplets and ice crystals at high speeds while flying through clouds in the sky. Scientists learned that the particles that started the growth crystals were made up of dust or biological material such as bacteria and plant material.

Scientists want to learn more about aerosols and clouds because this information will help them predict the future of climate change.

Last modified July 7, 2009 by Becca Hatheway.

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