Monday, 12 Jan, 2009 Science
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Ground-based Bacteria May Produce Rain

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A new study found that bacteria may have the ability to produce rain without leaving the ground. This is in case the powerful detergents, produced by bacteria, are able to reach the clouds.

Earlier scientists have suggested that bacteria have the ability to influence the formation of clouds. An example could be the study of snow samples, which showed that bacteria, gathered up in the atmosphere, produces precipitation so they could come back to the ground.

In her new study, Barbara Noziere of Stockholm University, Sweden, together with her colleagues presumes that surfactants, which are secreted by a lot of bacteria species, have the same ability to affect the weather. The research team worked in Brazil, Sweden and Finland gathering air samples over a coastal area, an ocean, a forest and a jungle in order to detect whether the detergents were present in the Earth's atmosphere.

They found that all samples featured small amounts of detergent with a similar chemical structure to that of the surfactants. At a meeting of the American Geophysical Union, held in San Francisco, Noziere stated that bacteria is helping the atmosphere, keeping it healthy and active. In addition, she considers that the bacteria developed the ability to call for water from the sky in order to help them survive.

Andi Andreae of the Max Planck Institute of Chemistry in Mainz, Germany, said that the second step in the study would involve the analysis of how the substances reach the clouds. Only a very small amount of cloud-forming particles arrive from the ground, being carried by the wind. "This bacterial gunk could hitch a ride on particles that travel from the surface to the clouds and supercharge them," said Andreae.

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