A new study suggests that after its death, one of the most abundant oceanic microorganisms provides a nucleation site for water vapor to condense- a process that eventually gives rise to clouds; indicating that cloud formation is far more complex than previously believed. Today, studying clouds is very important, as they play a key role in #climate.

Blooms of Emiliania huxleyi, a #singlecelledalga cover thousands of square-kilometers of the ocean. This alga along with other microbes comprises the #phytoplankton, which forms the bedrock of the #aquaticfoodweb as it captures #solarenergy, and converts #carbondioxide and nutrients into organic compounds, through #photosynthesis. Many of the organisms comprising the phytoplankton contain shells made of #calciumcarbonateplates (#coccoliths), which fall apart when these animals die. A vast majority of the calcium containing carcasses of these organisms accumulate on the #oceanfloor along with the #silt and other minerals and ultimately give rise to #sedimentaryrocks. However, a portion of these carcasses is cast into the air by the popping bubbles or breaking waves. These coccolith particles scatter light and produce haze. They also provide a large surface area for the #condensationofwatervapor. The fact that these particles are very small and light causes them to persist in the air for long, further cementing their role in #cloudnucleation. However, the precise role played by the coccoliths and other biological components in cloud formation still remains unknown.

So as of today, there are mainly two ways by which #phytoplanktoninfluencescloudformation: (a) through emission of dimethyl sulfide that is later transformed to sulfate, a very efficient nucleation medium for cloud condensation, and (b) through organic matter containing sea spray, which also serve as #cloudcondensationnuclei.

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