National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2011

Unique ocean-derived particles serve as a proxy for changes in ocean chemistry

Gaston, C.J., H. Furutani, S.A. Guazzotti, K.R. Coffee, T.S. Bates, P.K. Quinn, L.I. Aluwihare, B.G. Mitchell, and K.A. Prather

J. Geophys. Res., 116(D18), D18310, doi: 10.1029/2010JD015289 (2011)

Oceans represent a significant natural source of gases and particles to the atmosphere. Relative to gas phase compounds, less is known regarding the influence of changes in biological activity in the ocean on the chemistry of sea spray aerosols produced in marine environments. To gain insight into the influence of ocean biology and chemistry on atmospheric aerosol chemistry, simultaneous real-time measurements were made of atmospheric aerosol size and chemical mixing-state, gas phase dimethyl sulfide (DMS), as well as seawater DMS and chlorophyll a. In three different marine environments with elevated chlorophyll a and DMS, unique Mg particles were detected containing Mg2+, Ca2+, K+, and organic carbon. These particles were segregated from sea salt particles highlighting that two subpopulations within the sea spray were being ejected from the ocean. Strong temporal correlations were observed between these unique ocean-derived particles and freshly emitted sea salt particles (R2 = 0.86), particularly as wind speed increased to at least 10 m/s, and atmospheric DMS (R2 = 0.76). Time series correlations between ocean measurements and atmospheric aerosol chemistry suggest that chlorophyll a and DMS serve as indicators of changes in the chemistry of the ocean, most likely an increase in organic material, which is directly reflected in the single particle mixing-state. This is the first time such real-time correlations are shown between ocean chemistry and atmospheric aerosol mixing-state. The reasons behind these observed changes in aerosol chemistry are critical for understanding the heterogeneous reactivity, water uptake, and cloud forming potential of sea spray aerosols.

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