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Fourth echelon

Study: Pollen particles can influence climate

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ANN ARBOR, Mich., May 6 (UPI) -- Until recently, researchers had mostly focused on pollen's biological effects. Pollen's day job, of course, is to fertilize seed plants. It has a well-publicized side gig irritating the eyes and nasal passages of the allergy-prone.

But pollen also can affect the weather, researchers say. A new study out of the University of Michigan suggests pollen particles may trigger cloud formation. The work illuminates a unique and mostly unconsidered link between plants and climate.

"The grains were thought to be too large to be important in the climate system, too large to form clouds or interact with the sun's radiation," Allison Steiner, an associate professor of atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences and Michigan, explained in a recent press release. "And also the large particles don't last in the atmosphere. They tend to settle out relatively quickly."

But from reading the medical literature, Steiner knew that pollen grains can break down into much smaller pieces -- pieces that might influence weather. Experiments showed that water caused pollen particles to break down even faster.



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