A51D-0077: The microbiome of the upper troposphere: species composition and prevalence, effects of tropical storms, and atmospheric implications

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Authors: Athanasios Nenes3, 5, Natasha DeLeon-Rodriguez1, 2, Terry L Lathem3, Luis M Rodriguez-Rojas1, James Barazesh2, Bruce E Anderson4, Andreas Beyersdorf4, Luke D Ziemba4, Michael H Bergin2, Kostas Konstantinidis1, 2

Author Institutions: 1. Sch Biology, Georgia Inst Tech, Atlanta, GA, USA; 2. Sch Civil & Environmental Engineering, Georgia Inst Tech, Atlanta, GA, USA; 3. Sch Earth & Atmospheric Sci, Georgia Inst Tech, Atlanta, GA, USA; 4. Chemistry and Dynamics Branch/Science Directorate, NASA LaRC, Hampton, VA, USA; 5. Sch Chemical & biomolecular Engineering, Georgia Inst Tech, Atlanta, GA, USA

The composition and prevalence of microorganisms in the middle to upper troposphere (8-15 km altitude) and their role in aerosol-cloud-precipitation interactions represent important, unresolved questions for biological and atmospheric science. Here we report on the microbiome of low and high altitude air masses sampled onboard the NASA DC-8 platform during the 2010 Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes (GRIP) campaign in the Caribbean Sea. The samples were collected in cloudy and cloud-free air masses, before, during, and after two major tropical hurricanes, Earl and Karl. Quantitative PCR and microscopy revealed that viable bacterial cells represented on average around 20% of the total particles in the 0.25-1Î_m diameter range and were at least an order of magnitude more abundant compared to fungal cells, suggesting that bacteria represent an important and underestimated fraction of micron-sized atmospheric aerosols. The samples from the two hurricanes were characterized by significantly different bacterial communities, revealing that hurricanes aerosolize a large amount of new cells. Nonetheless, 17 bacterial taxa, including taxa that are known to utilize C1-C4 carbon compounds present in the atmosphere, were found in all samples, indicating that these organisms have developed adaptations to survive in the troposphere. The findings presented here suggest that the microbiome is a dynamic and underappreciated aspect of the upper troposphere with potentially profound impacts on the water cycle, clouds, and climate.

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