Wind-driven spume droplet production and the transport of Pseudomonas syringae from aquatic environments
Pietsch, Renee B.
Powers, Craig W.
Ross, Shane D.
Schmale, David G. III
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Natural aquatic environments such as oceans, lakes, and rivers are home to a tremendous diversity of microorganisms. Some may cross the air-water interface within droplets and become airborne, with the potential to impact the Earth’s radiation budget, precipitation processes, and spread of disease. Larger droplets are likely to return to the water or adjacent land, but smaller droplets may be suspended in the atmosphere for transport over long distances. Here, we report on a series of controlled laboratory experiments to quantify wind-driven droplet production from a freshwater source for low wind speeds. The rate of droplet production increased quadratically with wind speed above a critical value (10-m equivalent 5.7 m/s) where droplet production initiated. Droplet diameter and ejection speeds were fit by a gamma distribution. The droplet mass flux and momentum flux increased with wind speed. Two mechanisms of droplet production, bubble bursting and fragmentation, yielded different distributions for diameter, speed, and angle. At a wind speed of about 3.5 m/s, aqueous suspensions of the ice-nucleating bacterium Pseudomonas syringae were collected at rates of 283 cells m−2 s−1 at 5 cm above the water surface, and at 14 cells m−2 s−1 at 10 cm above the water surface. At a wind speed of about 4.0 m/s, aqueous suspensions of P. syringae were collected at rates of 509 cells m−2 s−1 at 5 cm above the water surface, and at 81 cells m−2 s−1 at 10 cm above the water surface. The potential for microbial flux into the atmosphere from aquatic environments was calculated using known concentrations of bacteria in natural freshwater systems. Up to 3.1 × 104 cells m−2 s−1 of water surface were estimated to leave the water in potentially suspended droplets (diameters <100 µm). Understanding the sources and mechanisms for bacteria to aerosolize from freshwater aquatic sources may aid in designing management strategies for pathogenic bacteria, and could shed light on how bacteria are involved in mesoscale atmospheric processes.
- Destination Area: Global Systems Science (GSS) 
- Faculty Works, Charles E. Via Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering 
- Faculty Works, Department of Biological Sciences 
- Faculty Works, Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics 
- Faculty Works, Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science