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Amount of dust, pollen matters for cloud precipitation, climate change
Date:6/7/2010

Arctic to Broomfield, Colo., to collect air samples in specially equipped National Center for Atmospheric Research planes. The Colorado State scientists also developed the first instrument for use inside the plane to take continuous air samples from in and around clouds and measure in real time the ice-forming ability of particles. The instrument allows the researchers to sample air and detect the total number concentrations of ice nuclei without first putting them on a filter or other processing.

How capturing air from a plane works: CSU scientists take air samples into a small chamber through a special port on the side of a C-130 plane. A diffusion chamber cools and humidifies the air and particles between two plates of ice toward conditions where ice forms, essentially "growing" clouds by simulating the conditions in the atmosphere. Researchers then evaluate how many particles will form ice crystals for specific cloud conditions. The plane then passes through the wave clouds to measure, with other instruments, how much ice really forms.

Scientists also used specialized instruments to determine the chemical makeup of the particulates forming ice.

"Ice nuclei are hard to measure they're microns in size like the size of a bacteria," Prenni said. "They don't make haze there aren't enough of them. Of all the particles in the atmosphere, one in a million particles in the atmosphere can cause ice to form."

In March, Prenni and DeMott published an article in Atmospheric Environment that examined the role biological particles from plants, bacteria or other living things on Earth play in characterizing atmospheric concentrations and types of ice nuclei. They concluded that much more work needs to be done in tandem with biologists to determine numbers and sources of these particles as a function of season and temperature range.

"The people who look at snow and find these bacteria in it don't know if the bacteria
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Contact: Emily Wilmsen
Emily.Wilmsen@colostate.edu
970-491-2336
Colorado State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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