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Earth Science

Microbes Survive, and Maybe Thrive, High In the Atmosphere 37

sciencehabit writes "Each year, hundreds of millions of metric tons of dust, water, and humanmade pollutants make their way into the atmosphere, often traveling between continents on jet streams. Now a new study confirms that some microbes make the trip with them, seeding the skies with billions of bacteria and other organisms—and potentially affecting the weather. What's more, some of these high-flying organisms may actually be able to feed while traveling through the clouds, forming an active ecosystem high above the surface of the Earth."
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Microbes Survive, and Maybe Thrive, High In the Atmosphere

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  • by wierd_w ( 1375923 ) on Monday January 28, 2013 @08:19PM (#42721513)

    There are actually several noteworthy bacterial species that live almost exclusively in the mid and upper atmospheres.

    For instance, here is a story from 2008 about 'rain making' atmospheric microbes. []

    This announcement is neither new, nor unexpected, and the hype injected by the media about it serves only to convey how poorly educated certain segments of the population actually are.

    Seriously, if there is even the slightest possibility that life could exist in any given environment on earth, there is a reasonable expectation that given a sufficient sampling of those environments, you will find thriving lifeforms that have adapted to that environment. Life is just that pernicious and invasive.

    Something as profoundly in contact with huge numbers of open biomes, like the atmosphere, with direct mechanisms of mixing low and high atmosphere contents, it really isn't surprising that microbes have adapted to conditions in the upper atmosphere.

    For goodness sake, we have novel species of microbe that have adapted to the extreme conditions of nasa JPL cleanrooms, including intense, sustained UV bombardment. JPL hasn't be around nearly as long as the stratosphere. This isn't hard.

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