What’s in a Raindrop?
Ambience: rain, thunder
There’s more in a drop of rain than just water and scientists are beginning to understand how these extra ingredients may be effecting the environment and the weather. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet
Schmale: There are some interesting that happen when it rains. First of all, when you go into a shower and you clean off, you rinse things off, right? Same thing happens in the atmosphere. When it rains, it washes things out.
David Schmale is an associate professor of Plant Pathology, Physiology and Weed Science
Schmale: After a rain if you go outside and you take a deep breath, you often have this feeling that the air is so clean. That’s because all the stuff, all the junk, the microorganisms, many of them living, many dead, the pollen that you’re breathing in as well, is washed out. Now this rain can also serve as a priming function. It can prime plants or microorganisms: plants to maybe release pollen; microorganisms to release spores. So you have this biological cycle that’s linked to rainfall. Not only is it this stripping phenomenon to clean the air, but also to sort of prime the pump of biological activity.
To study how rain strips mircroorganisms out of the atmosphere, David Schmale and his colleagues will be taking samples both on the ground and in the air, with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.
Schmale: When we begin to increase our sampling effort to different altitudes , we’ll be able to get a sense of this true stratification of microorganisms that are being stripped say, at 100 meters, versus those that are being collected at the ground level.
There’s strong evidence that microorganisms found in rainclouds may actually be causing it to rain.
Schmale: We’re still finding new organisms in our world’s oceans – deep trenches. The same principles now apply to the atmosphere, where we’re leveraging new technologies to explore the understudied atmosphere.
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