Until now, scientists have been interested in the biological effects of plants pollen.
Pollen’s most important purpose is to fertilize plants, but it is also the main factor that can trigger allergies in many people.
However, a new study shows that pollen can also affect the weather.
The study was conducted by a team of scientists from the University of Michigan and revealed that the particles of pollen can also trigger the formation of clouds.
The new findings shed light on the possible link between plants and climate, a link that was not very studied by researchers in details.
Allison Steiner, associate professor of oceanic, atmospheric and space sciences at the University of Michigan and one of the researchers who made the discovery, explained that until recently, the pollen grains were considered too large to be able to influence the climate system, and too big to form clouds or even to interact in any way with the radiation coming from the sun.
Professor Steiner added that the pollen particles are also too large to last in the atmosphere. Pollen usually settles pretty quickly, according to Steiner.
But medical literature writes that pollen grains can separate into smaller particles, and these particles could influence the weather, Steiner believes.
Recent studies have shown that water can actually make pollen particles break down even quicker than they usually do.
Steiner and her team found that when pollen particles get wet, they can break up into smaller pieces in minutes and even seconds.
The resulting smaller particles can act as water collectors, also known as “cloud condensation nuclei.”
This discovery inspired Steiner and her team of scientists to collaborate with researchers from Texas A&M University in an attempt to test pollen particles of different sizes and shapes in a special cloud chamber.
Sarah Brooks, an atmospheric researcher at Texas A&M, explained that the pollen samples that are brought into the cloud chamber are first exposed to moist conditions, similar to the humidity of the natural atmosphere.
If a sample acts as a cloud activator, the droplets will grow rapidly on the particle and will form large cloud droplets.
The researchers analyzed six types of pollen including pine trees, cedar, birch, pecan, oak and ragweed, and found that all of them drew moisture and were able to form clouds.
The scientists detailed their recent findings in the latest edition of the Geophysical Research Letters journal.
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