Wonderful Worlds of Life

Clouds at 30000 Feet

At 30,000 feet, ain’t nothing alive out there. Oh, wait…

Devotional #644

Romans 6:39: Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I don’t know if you saw the news item which indicates that there are living bacteria at 33,000 feet. No doubt bacteriologists have known this for a while, but the article by Stephanie Warren had this to say about life at 33,000. (You may insert your own joy of flying joke here.)

Earth’s upper atmosphere—below freezing, nearly without oxygen, flooded by UV radiation—is no place to live. But last winter, scientists from the Georgia Institute of Technology discovered that billions of bacteria actually thrive up there. Expecting only a smattering of microorganisms, the researchers flew six miles above Earth’s surface in a NASA jet plane. There, they pumped outside air through a filter to collect particles. Back on the ground, they tallied the organisms, and the count was staggering: 20 percent of what they had assumed to be just dust or other particles was alive. Earth, it seems, is surrounded by a bubble of bacteria.

Scientists don’t yet know what the bacteria are doing up there, but they may be essential to how the atmosphere functions, says Kostas Konstantinidis, an environmental microbiologist on the Georgia Tech team. For example, they could be responsible for recycling nutrients in the atmosphere, like they do on Earth. And similar to other particles, they could influence weather patterns by helping clouds form. However, they also may be transmitting diseases from one side of the globe to the other. The researchers found E. coli in their samples (which they think hurricanes lifted them from cities), and they plan to investigate whether plagues are raining down on us. If we can find out more about the role of bacteria in the atmosphere, says Ann Womack, a microbial ecologist at the University of Oregon, scientists could even fight climate change by engineering the bacteria to break down greenhouse gases into other, less harmful compounds.

I wrote about bacteria which live in the depths of the oceans under incredible extremes of pressure and temperature. This discovery is evidence of the creative power of God whose love and live-giving power reach through the whole universe. There is no place we can be anywhere in creation that puts us out of the reach of God’s greatness. Praise God for his providence to all of his creation and especially to us, his children!