A UC San Diego and NOAA study has shown that dust and microorganisms from as far away as the Sahara help stimulate precipitation in California, according to a release from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Using aerosol time-of-flight mass spectrometers, satellites and the Department of Energy’s G-1 research aircraft, researchers detected the presence of dust and biological aerosols from the Sahara as ice nuclei in clouds.
The researchers’ analysis of 2011 storms found that dust and biological aerosols enhance precipitation in the Sierra Nevada due to their ability to initiate the freezing of water vapor in clouds, and eventually precipitate as rain, snow or hail.
The study could help western states better predict weather patterns and understand their water supply.
Image: Satellite image showing California storm (Credit: NASA)