Behind the Forecast: How plankton create clouds
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Some of the smallest organisms on our planet may have a huge impact on the weather and climate.
Research has found that plankton can indirectly create clouds, blocking some of the sun’s UV radiation.
As the sun shines on the ocean’s top layer, the UV radiation bothers the plankton. The UV light stresses the plankton, which causes them to release a compound called DMSP; DMSP strengthens plankton’s cell walls. Bacteria break down the chemical in the water and transform it into another compound named DMS. DMS is filtered from the ocean into the air above, where it’s broken down into minute particles.
Those particles are the perfect cloud condensation nuclei. The clouds that form from these tiny particles keep direct sunlight from reaching the earth’s surface, reducing a plankton’s stress.
While DMS levels are highest from June through September, plankton levels are at their minimum during this time frame. Scientists have found that 77% of DMS changes were due to UV radiation exposure.
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