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Airborne biological particles and electric fields


  • William S. Benninghoff,

  • Anne S. Benninghoff


In November and December 1977 at McMurdo Station in Antarctica we investigated the kinds, numbers, and deposition of airborne particles larger than 2 μm while measuring electric field gradient at 2.5 m above the ground. Elementary collecting devices were used: Staplex Hi-Volume and Roto-rod samplers, Tauber (static sedimentation) traps, petrolatum-coated microscope slides, and snow (melted and filtered). The electric fields were measured by a rotating dipole (Stanford Radioscience Laboratory field mill number 2). During periods of blowing snow and dust the electric field gradient was + 500 to + 2500 V/m, and Tauber traps with grounded covers collected 2 or more times as much snow and dust as the ones with ungrounded covers. During falling snow the electric field gradient was −1000 to −1500 V/m, and the ungrounded traps collected almost twice as much snow and dust as those grounded. These observations suggest that under the prevailing weather conditions in polar regions the probable net effect is deposition of greater quantities of dust, including diaspores and minute organisms, on wet, grounded surfaces. This hypothesis needs examination for its use in explanation of biological distribution patterns.

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