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Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 12, issue 5 | Copyright
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 12, 2541-2550, 2012
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-12-2541-2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 07 Mar 2012

Research article | 07 Mar 2012

Suspendable macromolecules are responsible for ice nucleation activity of birch and conifer pollen

B. G. Pummer1, H. Bauer2, J. Bernardi3, S. Bleicher4, and H. Grothe1 B. G. Pummer et al.
  • 1Institute of Material Chemistry, Vienna University of Technology, Austria
  • 2Institute of Chemical Technologies and Analytics, Vienna University of Technology, Austria
  • 3USTEM, Vienna University of Technology, Austria
  • 4Atmospheric Chemistry Research Laboratory, University of Bayreuth, Germany

Abstract. The ice nucleation of bioaerosols (bacteria, pollen, spores, etc.) is a topic of growing interest, since their impact on ice cloud formation and thus on radiative forcing, an important parameter in global climate, is not yet fully understood. Here we show that pollen of different species strongly differ in their ice nucleation behaviour. The average freezing temperatures in laboratory experiments range from 240 to 255 K. As the most efficient nuclei (silver birch, Scots pine and common juniper pollen) have a distribution area up to the Northern timberline, their ice nucleation activity might be a cryoprotective mechanism. Far more intriguingly, it has turned out that water, which has been in contact with pollen and then been separated from the bodies, nucleates as good as the pollen grains themselves. The ice nuclei have to be easily-suspendable macromolecules located on the pollen. Once extracted, they can be distributed further through the atmosphere than the heavy pollen grains and so presumably augment the impact of pollen on ice cloud formation even in the upper troposphere. Our experiments lead to the conclusion that pollen ice nuclei, in contrast to bacterial and fungal ice nucleating proteins, are non-proteinaceous compounds.

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