Algae can form such large stocks that they can be seen from space - here south of Great Britain.
The local weather forecast depends on tiny algae in the sea, which we call phytoplankton.
Researchers from Israel demonstrate this with computer models, which show what happens when a virus infects the so-called Emiliania huxleyi algae.
The very numerous algae can form such dense formations that they can be seen from space. However, when they are infected with the EhV virus, they fall apart.
Algae can form such large stocks that they can be seen from space - here south of Great Britain.© Steve Groom / Plymouth Marine Laboratory, shutterstock & Ken ikeda
The dishes of the algae consist of plates of calcium carbonate, called coccolites.
They have a diameter of only 0.002 millimeters, not even a tenth of the diameter of a hair, and they are so light that they take off.
In higher air layers, the coccolites have the effect of aerosols: particles around which water molecules collect and form clouds.
Virus attack makes the sky cloudy1 / 3
Parts of dead algae are so light that they take off and form clouds, which give rain and block the sunlight.
A computer model that was fed with information about the shape and structure of the coccolites showed that they behave like small parachutes in the air, which, while hovering on the air currents, look higher up and stay in the air much longer than expected.
The model also showed that four times as many coccolites are released into the air as the scientists previously thought.