Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Airborne bacteria may play large role in precipitation

03.03.2008
MSU professor David Sands' research on airborne bacteria that act as a catalyst for rain and snow has been published by the journal "Science." MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.

A Montana State University professor and his colleagues have found evidence suggesting that airborne bacteria are globally distributed in the atmosphere and may play a large role in the cycle of precipitation.

The research of David Sands, MSU professor of plant sciences and plant pathology, along with his colleagues Christine Foreman, an MSU professor of land resources and environmental sciences, Brent Christner from Louisiana State University and Cindy Morris, will be published today in the journal "Science."

These research findings could potentially supply knowledge that could help reduce drought from Montana to Africa, Sands said.

... more about:
»Cycle »ICE »MSU »Sands »nuclei »precipitation

Sands, Foreman, Morris, and Christner -- who did post-doctorate work at MSU -- examined precipitation from locations as close as Montana and as far away as Russia to show that the most active ice nuclei are actually biological in origin. Nuclei are the seeds around which ice is formed. Snow and most rain begins with the formation of ice in clouds. Dust and soot can also serve as ice nuclei. But biological ice nuclei are different from dust and soot nuclei because only these biological nuclei can cause freezing at warmer temperatures.

Biological precipitation, or the "bio-precipitation" cycle, as Sands calls it, basically is this: bacteria form little groups on the surface of plants. Wind then sweeps the bacteria into the atmosphere, and ice crystals form around them. Water clumps on to the crystals, making them bigger and bigger. The ice crystals turn into rain and fall to the ground. When precipitation occurs, then, the bacteria have the opportunity to make it back down to the ground. If even one bacterium lands on a plant, it can multiply and form groups, thus causing the cycle to repeat itself.

"We think if (the bacteria) couldn't cause ice to form, they couldn't get back down to the ground," Sands said. "As long as it rains, the bacteria grow."

The team's work is far-reaching. Sands and his colleagues have found the bacteria all over the world, including Montana, California, the eastern U.S., Australia, South Africa, Morocco, France and Russia.

The team's research also shows that most known ice-nucleating bacteria are associated with plants and some are capable of causing disease.

"Bacteria have probably been around for a million years," Sands said. "They live on the surface of plants, and may occasionally cause plant disease. But their role in rain-making may be more important."

Indeed, the implications of a relationship between rain and bacteria could be enormous, though they are yet to be proven, Sands said.

For example, a reduced amount of bacteria on crops could affect the climate. Because of the bio-precipitation cycle, overgrazing in a dry year could actually decrease rainfall, which could then make the next year even dryer.

"Drought could be less of a problem once we understand all of this," Sands said.

Sands, who earned a doctorate in pathology and bacteriology from the University of California-Berkeley, proposed the concept of bio-precipitation approximately 25 years ago, but few people believed him.

Since that time, he said, better tools have changed the research climate, because new DNA technology allows researchers to distinguish the bacteria, and giant computers allow people to do meteorological studies with satellites.

"It's fun to see something come out after 25 years," Sands said, "particularly when we knew back then it was true."

More studies must be done, though, because questions remain. For example, since the bacteria do not grow above 84 degrees, precipitation could be affected if the world's weather creeps up and reaches a cut-off point, Sands said. The researchers are also examining the bacteria to find out if they vary by region.

A diverse group of people should be interested in the research, because bio-precipitation could affect many things.

"I want people to be fascinated by the interconnection of things going on in the environment," Sands said. "It's all interconnected."

David Sands, (406) 994-5151 or dsands@montana.edu

David Sands | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.montana.edu

Further reports about: Cycle ICE MSU Sands nuclei precipitation

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New cellular pathway helps explain how inflammation leads to artery disease
22.06.2018 | Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

nachricht Exposure to fracking chemicals and wastewater spurs fat cell development
22.06.2018 | Duke University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Temperature-controlled fiber-optic light source with liquid core

In a recent publication in the renowned journal Optica, scientists of Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology (Leibniz IPHT) in Jena showed that they can accurately control the optical properties of liquid-core fiber lasers and therefore their spectral band width by temperature and pressure tuning.

Already last year, the researchers provided experimental proof of a new dynamic of hybrid solitons– temporally and spectrally stationary light waves resulting...

Im Focus: Overdosing on Calcium

Nano crystals impact stem cell fate during bone formation

Scientists from the University of Freiburg and the University of Basel identified a master regulator for bone regeneration. Prasad Shastri, Professor of...

Im Focus: AchemAsia 2019 will take place in Shanghai

Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.

Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...

Im Focus: First real-time test of Li-Fi utilization for the industrial Internet of Things

The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.

Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.

Im Focus: Sharp images with flexible fibers

An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.

Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Munich conference on asteroid detection, tracking and defense

13.06.2018 | Event News

2nd International Baltic Earth Conference in Denmark: “The Baltic Sea region in Transition”

08.06.2018 | Event News

ISEKI_Food 2018: Conference with Holistic View of Food Production

05.06.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

New cellular pathway helps explain how inflammation leads to artery disease

22.06.2018 | Life Sciences

When fluid flows almost as fast as light -- with quantum rotation

22.06.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Exposure to fracking chemicals and wastewater spurs fat cell development

22.06.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>