How bacteria make it rain

From the AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2016 — The oceans are covered with a thin film of organic matter and bacteria, many of which launch out of the water and go airborne. But these little particles do more than just take flight — these microbes can actually make it rain. In the final stop of our Speaking of Chemistry Road Trip, we visit San Diego, California, where Kimberly Prather is researching the surprising relationship between ocean spray, bacteria and the weather. Watch the video here:

Speaking of Chemistry is a production of Chemical & Engineering News, a weekly magazine of the American Chemical Society. It’s the series that keeps you up to date with the important and fascinating chemistry shaping the world around you. Subscribe to the series at http://bit.ly/ACSReactions, and follow us on Twitter @CENMag.

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29 thoughts on “How bacteria make it rain

    • What the hell are they talking about ? It has been proved experimentally.

      Some clever person, figured out how to catch individual raindrops in a contamination free way. And in such tests they found that virtually every single rain drop (in the test situation) had its own colony of microbes, that likely formed from perhaps one single microbe that formed a non zero radius substrate for water droplets to condense on.

      So it’s old hat, and has been known for quite some time.

      G

  1. From the article;

    “The oceans are covered with a thin film of organic matter and bacteria…”

    No. The entire water content is filled with organic matter.


    • (photo from “Waves Above and Below the Water”, NASA)

      “Even though the [internal] waves occur at great depth and the height of the waves at the surface is almost nothing, they can be traced in the sunglint because they concentrate the biological films on the water surface, creating slight differences in roughness.” – NASA, “Solitons in the Strait of Gibraltar”

  2. In 2005 I attended a meeting of the Weather Modification Assc. where artificial cloud seeding by bacteria was discussed. The main reason is that the condensation of water vapor needs only a very low supersaturation …

  3. In 2005 I attended a meeting of the Weather Modification Ass. where artificial cloud seeding by bacteria was discussed. The main reason is that the condensation of water vapor needs only a very low supersaturation …

  4. I’d been sure that CO2 and AGW would increase precipitation for the same reasons this argument proposes, until I read an article that claimed only one raindrop in a thousand is seeded by bacteria.
    So I concluded even a doubling or tripling of bacteria or algae would make no significant change.
    Of course if it does then it would reduce the ‘tripling effect’ prophesied by alarmists. Given Nature’s refusal to produce that ‘tripling effect’, this effect may well be a big part of the explanation.

  5. Wow, so they finally realised that there is more to climate than CO2 but it’s a “whole new field of study”. Maybe because they’ve been wasting the last 30y of massive funding playing politics instead of doing climate science.

    Missed opportunity. I get the feeling there will be a lot less money sloshing around in the near future.

  6. The chemistry of cloud particle formation. Chemistry? It’s physics, but you wouldn’t expect a chemist to know that.

    • Dang straight it is chemistry. That doesn’t mean that physics isn’t involved, just that the physics is that of chemical reactions and/or phase changes. Yes, this has been studied before.

  7. Ieo Morgan said “I’d been sure that CO2 and AGW would increase precipitation for the same reasons this argument proposes, until I read an article that claimed only one raindrop in a thousand is seeded by bacteria.”

    An article? Try searching Google for “cloud formation bacteria”, without the quotes. Eye-opener for you.

  8. I’ve often wondered about the Gaia hypothesis, that the planet’s ecosystem functions as a self-regulating whole. This discovery certainly seems to offer an example of one way such a self-regulating process could operate, with marine organisms being able to regulate precipitation through bacterial cloud seeding.

  9. Article excerpt:

    The oceans are covered with a thin film of organic matter and bacteria, many of which launch out of the water and go airborne. But these little particles do more than just take flight — these microbes can actually make it rain.

    How bout the Great Lakes of North America? Are they also covered with those “leaping” bacteria? And are those bacteria responsible for all “rain clouds” formations over the lake waters? And also responsible for all the “bad” rain storms, ….. even the one that sank the Edmund Fitzgerald?

    WOW, I can’t believe the USGS screwed this one up as bad as they did. To wit:

    Adhesion and Cohesion of Water” @ http://water.usgs.gov/edu/adhesion.html

    The USGS never mentioned anything about bacteria or dust particle or “free” neutrons or aerosols being absolutely necessary for the formation of raindrops.

    • Living bacteria have been recovered in air samples from the upper Troposphere. It has been a while since I read the paper, but there puzzles about the actual species recovered. The best guess was that they were indeed from surface marine (even terrestrial dust) lifted into the air. Once airborne, they can cause nucleation and cloud formation along with fine, clay sized dust, aerosols, and the cascade byproducts of cosmic ray bombardment. All these “single solutions” explanations for how clouds form are a waste of time.

      That link, BTW, says nothing about clouds, or about energy and condensation. It reads like something for backward grade schoolers. Water for example does form skins on surfaces of the right type (like glass or obsidian). It is key to how they weather.

      • That link, BTW, says nothing about clouds, or about energy and condensation. It reads like something for backward grade schoolers.

        Duster, you are absolutely right ……. because it was during one’s Grade School years that they should have been learning a little bit about the physical properties of a water (H2O) molecule.

        GETTA CLUE, …… water (H2O) molecules don’t need no damn physical nucleus or nucleation site for two (2) or more of said water (H2O) molecules to begin collecting together (cohesion) to form a visible “drop of water” (clouds, fogs, mists).

        The only per se “nucleation site(s)” that atmospheric water (H2O) molecules make use of for a “collecting site” ……… is just about any surface that is COLDER than the air temperature wherein the water (H2O) molecules are residing, ……. such as the inside surface of a house window or an automobile windshield on cold, cold days and nights. (why da hell do pople think windshield “defrosters” were invented?)

        And ps, living spiders have also been recovered in air samples from the upper Troposphere ….. and they were not up there to collect H2O molecules.

  10. The fish need something to eat while their up there. /sarc
    WHILE the Top End and Central Australia have been battered by torrential rains, a Territory town has reportedly had fish falling from the sky. http://www.news.com.au/national/its-raining-fish-in-the-northern-territory-report/story-e6frfkvr-1225835295781
    I suppose they found microbes in a rain drop and put 2+2 together and came up with 5 /sarc
    The positive hydrogen and the negative Oxygen are the seeds that make it rain. Your always going to find particles in rain drops. Rain cleans the air , like a precipitator at a modern coal-fired power plant.

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