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The Sky Is falling, And It’s Nasty

1 year, 2 months ago

2767  0
Posted on Feb 25, 2018, 5 p.m.

The sky is falling viruses and bacteria, and not just a few. One would be surprised at the astonishing number of viruses and bacteria that are circulating around the Earth’s atmosphere and falling from it according to scientists from Spain, Canada, and the USA.

A multitude of viruses and bacteria are circulating around the Earth’s atmosphere and falling down from it as suggested by recent research. For the first time scientists are quantifying the viruses being swept up from the planet surface into free troposphere, beyond the planet weather system yet below the stratosphere where planes fly, carrying these viruses and bacterias for thousands of kilometers before being deposited back onto the surface.


Per square metre daily upwards of 800 million viruses and bacterias are deposited above planetary boundary layer. To break that down, that is about 25 viruses for each individual person in Canada. Scientists began to notice about 20 years ago that genetically similar viruses occurring in different environments around the globe. It is not a far leap to be able to conceive that a virus or bacteria can be swept up into the atmosphere from one continent and be deposited down upon another. Viruses and bacteria are swept up into the atmosphere in small particles from sea spray and soil-dust wind.


At platforms in the Sierra Nevada Mountains researchers investigated how much material is carried up above the atmospheric boundary layer above 2500 - 3000 metres, at which particles would be subject to long range transport. Researchers shockingly found that each day per square metre billions of viruses and tens of millions of bacteria are being deposited. Viruses had a higher deposit rate that was 9 to 461 times higher than the rate of deposit rates for bacteria. Deposits back to the surface typically occurs via dust intrusions and rain events, with rain being less efficient at removing viruses from the atmosphere. It was noted that the majority of viruses carried signatures which indicated that they had been swept into air from sea spray. Viruses tend hitch rides on smaller and lighter organic materials suspended in the air and gas which means they can stay aloft in the atmosphere longer.


Materials provided by University of British Columbia.

Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

Isabel Reche, Gaetano D’Orta, Natalie Mladenov, Danielle M. Winget, Curtis A. Suttle. Deposition rates of viruses and bacteria above the atmospheric boundary layer. The ISME Journal, 2018; DOI: 10.1038/s41396-017-0042-4


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