In British Columbia, a study from the University of British Columbia found that more than 800 million viruses are deposited per square meter every day above the planetary boundary layer. The findings may explain why genetically identical viruses are often found in very different environments around the globe. Bacteria and viruses are swept up in the atmosphere in small particles from soil-dust and sea spray.
University of British Columbia virologist Curtis Suttle, one of the senior authors, said in the press release, “Roughly 20 years ago we began finding genetically similar viruses occurring in very different environments around the globe. This preponderance of long-residence viruses travelling the atmosphere likely explains why—it’s quite conceivable to have a virus swept up into the atmosphere on one continent and deposited on another.”
The researchers also found the majority of the viruses carried signatures indicating they had been swept up into the air from sea spray. The viruses tend to hitch rides on smaller, lighter, organic particles suspended in air and gas, meaning they can stay aloft in the atmosphere longer.