Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Video - Phil Collins In the Air Tonight

The Scientist | The air is teeming with microbes, and scientists are finally starting to understand how they influence everything from meteorology to epidemiology. Every cubic meter of air holds up to 100 million microorganisms, but the diversity and behavior of these microbes remains masked to microbiologists — until recently, that is.

Thanks to next-generation sequencing techniques, scientists are finally uncovering the details of the biodiversity and biogeography of this largely unknown ecosystem. They are discovering airborne microbes do much more than just ride the wind transmitting disease — microbes also help create the intricately beautiful designs in snowflakes and facilitate the formation of clouds, for example. Studying them, researchers say, could give insight into how to better monitor global climate change, as well as predict and track weather cycles and disease and allergen outbreaks.

"There's going to be an explosion of studies using these new techniques," said Jessica Green, microbial ecologist at the University of Oregon.

Recent research published in PNAS suggests that the diversity of microbial life in the air is on par with the soil, at least in urban areas, yet the air remains vastly understudied in comparison.

"Just seven or ten years ago we didn't realize bacteria existed in clouds," said Anne-Marie Delort, professor of microbiology and organic chemistry at Université Blaise Pascal in France. Now researchers know microbes act as a surface for the condensation of water vapor in the atmosphere, thus forming clouds. Recent research publish in Science shows microbes also play the same role during snowflake formation and other types of precipitation. The next step, Delort said, is to uncover their metabolic activity in clouds and influence on atmospheric processes. If they are metabolically active, she added, microbes could not only be acting as cloud condensers, but affecting the carbon and nitrogen cycles as well.

p.s. This cat I been following for a decade on yahoo groups has known all about aerobiology and atmospheric electrodynamics and has been sharing this knowledge with a tiny group of interested correspondents for over a decade.