By Cassie Kelly, May 22, 2015
Effects of pollen are largely unexplored when it comes to atmospheric studies because the particles are simply too large. But one team of scientists, driven by curiosity, began researching how smaller pollen particles impact the atmosphere.
The research, conducted by scientists from Michigan State University and Texas A&M, revealed that as pollen absorbs moisture, it breaks down into smaller and smaller particles, acting as water collectors. This process is very similar to how clouds form in the atmosphere and further research found that pollen, when exposed to moisture, can produce clouds.
To prove their theory, the team used pollen samples from pine, birch, oak, pecan and cedar trees. They soaked the samples with water and sprayed them into a cloud-making chamber using an atomizer. The soaked particles formed droplets in a chamber, indicating cloud formation. After looking at the droplets through a microscope, the team was able to determine that pollen does indeed create clouds.
The discovery may help allergy research as well as climate studies on the atmosphere. The team hopes to further their research by studying how clouds formed by pollen affect the entire plant lifecycle.