A study recently published in PLoS One really gets to the core of a thunderstorm: the microbial life within hailstones. Using ultra-high resolution mass spectrometry, researchers discovered nearly 3000 compounds and their molecular formulae. According to the molecular fingerprints, the origin was weighted toward soil-born dissolved organic matter, however the bacterial communities were skewed toward plant surface origin.
The study says this indicates a selection process during cloud formation which would have an effect on the, “long-distance transport and spatial distribution of bacteria on Earth.” The researchers hypothesize that bacteria of plant-surface origin were more well adapted to airborne conditions and grow on the organic material in the clouds. Noting the extreme habitat offered by a thunderstorm, the study counting it among the most so, do these bacteria fall under the nomenclature of extremophile?
This study is the first time hailstones have been used to examine storm bacteria. They provide excellent samples as they freeze the material in real time. This will provide future studies much improved insight into the nature of storm bacteria and aerosol distribution.
Bacterial density and proportion of cultivable cells.
The study, published in PLoS One, can be found HERE.