Bubble Chemistry at Ocean-Atmosphere Boundary Influences Remote Atmospheric Particle Characteristics


The ocean transfers gases and particles into the atmosphere, especially as ocean waves break and spray material into the air. Both organic and inorganic materials are transferred to the atmosphere in this way. Until recently, the amount and characteristics of such organic materials were poorly known, even though they may have an important influence on atmospheric processes such as marine clouds. In addition, variations in ocean chemistry can affect organic enrichment of sea spray particles, which, in turn, potentially affect the chemistry of naturally occurring atmospheric particles. A team of Department of Energy-funded researchers devised a method to determine which types of compounds are prevalent in different ocean ecosystems and how these compounds affect the chemical composition of ocean surface water and associated sea spray. The team collected descriptions and concentration information of organic chemical properties from a broad range of publications. By applying basic physical chemistry relationships, the researchers investigated the likelihood for different classes of organic molecules similar to those found in different ocean ecosystems to stick to bubble surfaces. Using a newly developed method for linking the output of ocean biogeochemistry models to the chemical composition of aerosols, the findings suggest that macromolecular distributions and surface activity should be considered in future marine systems simulations to capture how marine-derived particles influence atmospheric chemistry and clouds.


Elliott, S., S. Burrows, C. Deal, X. Liu, M. Long, O. Ogunro, L. Russell, and O. Wingenter. 2014. “Prospects for Simulating Macromolecular Surfactant Chemistry at the Ocean-Atmosphere Boundary,” Environmental Research Letters 9(6), 064012. DOI:10.1088/1748-9326/9/66/064012.