The source article for yesterday’s post Life in the Clouds, which dealt with microbes catalysing freezing of water droplets in clouds, jogged something in my memory. The paragraph in question said:
A little mineral crystal can act as a template, coaxing water molecules on its surface to organise into the hexagonal lattice of an ice crystal. … But a cloud droplet that is just slightly wider than a red blood cell may contain only one such particle. In order for this particle to nucleate ice crystals, it needs to have just the right shape and give off minute attractive and repulsive atomic forces in just the right places so that Hs and Os in those H2O molecules stick to the particle in the right hexagonal pattern.
I remembered some time back seeing a video on “molecular ordering in water”. I’ve managed to find it again. It is a lecture by Dr Gerry Pollack of the Bioengineering Faculty at the University of Washington. Prepare to commit to an hour of watching this, to be a little skeptical (at first), and yet to be amazed. Stick with it I beg you – it will change your thinking.
I do like the way he acknowledges just how challenging this is (to conventional science) and doesn’t overblow it or make wild claims for it.
They key points (for clouds) are that we have an effect of light causing ordering and potentially charge separation. I probably need to watch the video again to understand if there is a fundamental requirement of a surface, or indeed a specific kind of surface, for simple charge separation in the exclusion zone. If anyone else picks that up, do comment as I’ll be travelling for the rest of today.
The results have implications for cloud coalescence, and may help the understanding of influences on cloud formation. Comments about cosmic rays anyone?
I found myself thinking about mists and fogs which form after sunset and don’t exhibit the ‘blobbiness’ of cloud.
Some wavelengths of light are more efficacious than others, so it struck me that the small variation in TSI and UV light we see during the solar cycle might be amplified by atmospheric reductions in wavelengths reaching cloud-forming level. I think Haven’t we seen an increase in low-level cloud recently (I’ll post the link if anyone has it to hand)? And again I keep thinking of Willis E’s Thunderstorm Thermostat Hypothesis.
This might all seem far-fetched or an extrapolation too far, but consider this – the best innovative thinking often happens at the interface of disciplines. If you don’t agree, here are some commercial examples. It’s where I see science at in my day job and it is also being encouraged by funding bodies.
Once again it seems that for all we know, in many ways we know nothing.
I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s clouds illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all (Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now)