Marine Organic Chemistry: Global Distribution and Surface Activity of Macromolecules in Offline Simulations


Bubbles bursting at the ocean surface produce sea spray aerosol droplets. This process changes sea spray chemistry by transferring organic matter from ocean water into the marine boundary layer. These bubbles can contain several classes of organic compounds that are emitted and transported through the air. In the atmosphere, these particles can affect cloud properties, impacting the amount of sunlight clouds reflect away from Earth. A team of scientists, including U.S. Department of Energy researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory, found that emitted aerosol particles containing long-chain carbon molecules can contribute significantly to the atmospheric particle population and affect concentrations of cloud condensation nuclei (CCN). CCN, in turn, influence how clouds form and develop and impact the climate by modifying Earth’s albedo (reflectivity). The team developed an observational approach that accounts more completely for macromolecular chemical resolution within the sea and then utilizes the distributions to predict the organic mass composition in fine-mode sea spray aerosols. This new approach permits estimation of oceanic concentrations and bubble film surface coverages for several classes of organic compounds. Additionally, this research may provide useful mapped estimates of macromolecular distributions as a research guide for aerosol studies, such as the design of ship and aircraft-based experiments.


Ogunro, O. O., S. M. Burrows, S. Elliott, A. A. Frossard, F. Hoffman, R. T. Letscher, J. K. Moore, L. M. Russell, S. Wang, and O. W. Wingenter. 2015. “Global Distribution and Surface Activity of Macromolecules in Offline Simulations of Marine Organic Chemistry,” Biogeochemistry 126, 25-56. DOI: 10.1007/s10533-015-0136-x.