Clouds of germs (and germs of clouds). has a new piece of the climate change puzzle, a discovery some call the “holy grail” of climate science:

The effects of tiny airborne particles called aerosols on cloud formation have been some of the most difficult aspects of weather and climate for scientists to understand. In the climate change science field, which derives many of its projections from computer simulations of climate phenomena, the actions of aerosols on clouds represent what scientists consider the greatest uncertainty in modeling predictions for the future.

“By sampling clouds in real time from an aircraft, these investigators were able to get information about ice particles in clouds at an unprecedented level of detail,” said Anne-Marine Schmoltner of the NSF’s Division of Atmospheric Sciences. “By determining the chemical composition of the very cores of individual ice particles, they discovered that both mineral dust, and, surprisingly, biological particles play a major role in the formation of clouds.”

The findings suggest that the biological particles that get swept up in dust storms help to induce the formation of cloud ice and that their region of origin makes a difference. Prather said initial evidence is increasingly suggesting that dust transported from Asia could be influencing precipitation in North America, for example.

I don’t know if they’ll be making any Harrison Ford blockbusters (or Tom Hanks blockbusters, for that matter) about frozen bacteria, but you never know. Their holy grail could be your weather-control machine.