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By Bob Valen 

You, viruses and the atmosphere

The Weather Watcher


Last updated 4/15/2020 at 9:24am

Given the current threat of the Novel Coronavirus and its potential effect on humanity, I thought I’d write about viruses in general. I’ll address the fact that viruses are in our atmosphere and ride air currents, eventually dropping to the ground regularly. They are abundant. They have been on the planet for at least 300 million years. Viruses are the most abundant microbes on the planet. We are host to them as well; they are part of the body’s microbiome.

Let’s start with a highly abridged lesson on viruses. I recall some of this from my biology classes at university. Viruses are much, much smaller than bacteria. We think of viruses, and Ebola, SARS and Swine flu pop into our heads. Today, it’s the new coronavirus (The World Health Organization now calls it SARS-CoV-2). Viruses are on the margins of what we consider life. They contain the key elements that make up all living organisms. They have nucleic acids, though any given virus only has one or the other – RNA or DNA. Conversely, viruses lack the capacity to independently read and act upon the information contained within these nucleic acids. To do their duty, viruses need to access the inside of a host’s body and manipulate its cells. Respiratory passages and open wounds can act as entrances for viruses. Sometimes insects provide the means of entry. Certain viruses hitch a ride in an insect’s saliva and enter the host’s body after the insect bites. That is the highly abridged lesson. Google “viruses or viruses and human cells” for more detail.

Viruses do fly around in our atmosphere. You can’t see them or feel them — way too small. Yet, millions of airborne viruses are floating around and above you each and every day. These microbial atmospheric trekkers are descending everywhere on Earth after riding the air currents. Our healthy immune systems are important and active because of these floaters.

According to a 2018 article in Live Science, this is what scientists have found: “For the first time, Scientists have analyzed the vast quantities of viruses that are swept up and swirling about in the atmosphere, sometimes traveling thousands of miles from their point of origin before seeing the planet’s surface again. To do that, researchers looked at a boundary layer in the atmosphere — the free troposphere, which lies below the stratosphere but is still high enough to be beyond the reach of weather systems. The scientists discovered a deluge of airborne microbes, finding that a single square meter of the planet’s surface could be showered with hundreds of millions of viruses — and tens of millions of bacteria — in a single day.”

Viruses are out there, some with potential lethality. If our immune systems can’t fight them or we haven’t developed a vaccine to counter a specific virus, we all have to work at slowing the spread — Stay Home, Stay Healthy and definitely practice Social Distancing. It’s a new era, let’s adjust.

Here is the March 2020 weather data. All data is gathered from my home weather station. Precipitation was on the weak side. I recorded 0.40” of rain, and 0.07” of that was snow water. I measured 0.3” of snowfall. The mean precipitation for March is 0.89” while the least was 0.04” in 1969, and the maximum was 4.13” in 2012. Mean snowfall for March was 0.07”. The maximum snowfall for March is 9.8” back in 1951. Temperatures were as follows: The high was 63.7˚F, the low 21.6˚F and the mean 41.0˚F. The all-time high was 74˚F in 1942, the all-time low was 0˚F in 1955, and the all-time mean is 41.2˚F.

The Climate Prediction Center (CPC) predicted conditions for our region during the three-month period — April, May and June — above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation.


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