We humans are proud of their abilities to adapt, but bacteria have always been a step ahead in this game, stretching for billions of years. Our microbial brothers quietly exist in the most unpleasant for the existence of environments, from deep-sea vents to Antarctic lakes. Some of the stronger germs survive even in the upper atmosphere — the stratosphere — and recent data suggests that they may influence our weather, our crops and even our health.
Our understanding of atmospheric germs is still evolving, and currently most of the research focuses on the troposphere, the layer in which we live and breathe. In 1979, Russell Schnell, the Deputy Director of the global monitoring Division of the National oceanic and atmospheric administration, wondered why tea plantations in Western Kenya hold the world record for collecting hail. It turns out it was a pest of tea plants Pseudomonas syringae, who was raised in the air people in the process of gathering the tea leaves, because there chelubeeva microbes much faster formed ice crystals.
Evidence of this process is called bioprecipitation since found worldwide, with the participation of various microbial criminals. Recent studies have shown that microbes can influence cloud formation and cover, and even to illuminate the sky to an incredible degree. The lower atmosphere is filled with not only the creators of rain, but organisms that carry diseases wherever they drifted. Since the climate is changing, and changing around the world, growing interest in quantifying the consequences of the actions of these microbes.
But the fundamental data remain missing. “We scientists still have no good budget for the research of biology in our atmosphere,” says Daniel Ciccio, Professor of atmospheric chemistry at mit.
All because in the atmosphere of a lot of air and is very difficult to collect the samples without any contamination. Not enough available for scientific experimentation systems, regardless of whether you’re collecting or the study of biological samples.
And if we don’t know much about the troposphere, the stratosphere, which begins at altitudes of about 10,000 meters in mid-latitudes, we know even less. However, we know that even in the thin, dry air of the stratosphere, where the temperature can drop to -60 degrees, there are a small number of hardy microbes.
Priya Dassarma studying microbes in the stratosphere and their relation to climate, says that these high-altitude microbes can spread the allergens or even diseases. “Some strains isolated from the stratosphere are a danger to plants and animals, and clinical isolates were survived even at this height,” she writes. “The potential implications for public health and medicine emphasize the need for more thorough studies of the movement of microbes in the atmosphere and studies of the mechanisms of their survival.”
The idea that germs can spread in the atmosphere, is not a new study carried out in 1990-ies, for example, show that bacteria move from Africa to Florida every summer riding on mineral soils from the Sahara. And transport in the far distance is particularly effective at high altitude, due to the existence of jet streams, the fast flow of air to the Ground.
But Ciccio believes that the risk, which says the new job — that of high-altitude atmospheric paths may be the fastest method of transporting diseases around the world is exaggerated. He thinks that we have to learn more about the lower atmosphere before we start to worry about what is happening in the upper layers.
In any case, all these new studies become relevant in the light of climate change: storm world, more germs is drawn into the lower layers of the atmosphere by the wind. From there some will go into the stratosphere, mostly in the process of vertical mixing of the layers. As drainage of new regions, more dust particles will rise into the air, and then in the atmosphere as a whole will be more material.
Currently, any impact that may have the stratospheric microbes is not taken into account in the projections of climate change. All scholars point to the need for a better understanding of what is in the air over our heads, so we have a basis for understanding future changes.
Put on a tin foil hat? Tell us in our chat in Telegram.