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Bacteria Living in 'Cloud Cities' May Control Rain and Snow Patterns

Some bacteria can influence the weather. Up high in the sky where clouds form, water droplets condense and ice crystal grow around tiny particles. Typically these particles are dust, pollen, or even soot from a wildfire.

But recently scientists have begun to realize that some of these little particles are alive -- they are bacteria evolved to create ice or water droplets around themselves. Some of them live in clouds (so you can think of them like tiny little Lando Calrissians, pictured below), and here and there they may be numerous enough to change rain and snowfall patterns.

Might make you think twice about trying to catch snow flakes or raindrops with your tongue.

One of these weather gifted bacteria is called Pseudomonas syringae. Known to live on agricultural crops, this bacteria does more than provide any old surface for the ice crystal to grow.

Thanks to a special protein, the bugs promote freezing at higher temperatures than usual, an attack mechanism that damages plants so the microbes can feed.

But David Sands, a scientist from Montana State University, and other researchers believe the bacteria are part of a little known weather system.

The magical ability of this protein is well known. Ski resorts use cannons to shoot this protein into the air to promote snow formation.

The fact that these bacteria employ the protein is the intriguing part (and, oh yeah, they can LIVE IN CLOUDS!) and could open up doors for more than the snow-building industry.

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