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50 years ago, scientists suspected that microbes were blooming in the clouds

Clouds can be ecosystems – Science News, November 14, 1970

Clouds in the sky may contain living microbial ecosystems … (Research) has determined that metabolic activity, in the form of CO2 capture in organic matter, occurred in dust (in the air) over a 24-hour period, while no produced sterilized control powder.


The atmosphere is rich in microbial life. A census documented some 28,000 species of bacteria in cloud water samples on a mountain in France, scientists reported in 2017. Research conducted over the past decade has more or less supported the claim that some bacteria may be metabolically active in their homes. A species of bacillus, for example, eats sugar floating in the atmosphere to build a coating, perhaps to protect itself from ultraviolet radiation and low temperatures (SN: 2/7/15, p. 5). Some scientists suspect that bacteria in the clouds contribute to the Earth’s carbon and nitrogen cycles and even influence time (SN: 18/06/11, p. 12). Microbes can stimulate the formation of ice crystals, causing rain and snow, and a return to the Earth's surface.

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