National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2015

Sources and composition of submicron organic mass in marine aerosol particles

Frossard, A.A., L.M. Russell, S.M. Burrows, S.M. Elliott, T.S. Bates, and P.K. Quinn

J. Geophys. Res., 119(22), 12,977–13,003, doi: 10.1002/2014JD021913 (2014)

The sources and composition of atmospheric marine aerosol particles (aMA) have been investigated with a range of physical and chemical measurements from open-ocean research cruises. This study uses the characteristic functional group composition (from Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy) of aMA from five ocean regions to show the following: (i) The organic functional group composition of aMA that can be identified as mainly atmospheric primary marine (ocean derived) aerosol particles (aPMA) is 65 ± 12% hydroxyl, 21 ± 9% alkane, 6 ± 6% amine, and 7 ± 8% carboxylic acid functional groups. Contributions from photochemical reactions add carboxylic acid groups (15%–25%), shipping effluent in seawater and ship emissions add additional alkane groups (up to 70%), and coastal or continental emissions mix in alkane and carboxylic acid groups. (ii) The organic composition of aPMA is nearly identical to model-generated primary marine aerosol particles from bubbled seawater (gPMA, which has 55 ± 14% hydroxyl, 32 ± 14% alkane, and 13 ± 3% amine functional groups), indicating that its overall functional group composition is the direct consequence of the organic constituents of the seawater source. (iii) While the seawater organic functional group composition was nearly invariant across all three ocean regions studied and the ratio of organic carbon to sodium (OC/Na+) in the gPMA remained nearly constant over a broad range of chlorophyll a concentrations, the gPMA alkane group fraction appeared to increase with chlorophyll a concentrations (r = 0.66). gPMA from productive seawater had a larger fraction of alkane functional groups (42 ± 9%) compared to gPMA from nonproductive seawater (22 ± 10%), perhaps due to the presence of surfactants in productive seawater that stabilize the bubble film and lead to preferential drainage of the more soluble (lower alkane group fraction) organic components. gPMA has a hydroxyl group absorption peak location characteristic of monosaccharides and disaccharides, where the seawater organic mass hydroxyl group peak location is closer to that of polysaccharides. This may result from the larger saccharides preferentially remaining in the seawater during gPMA and aPMA production.

Feature Publications | Outstanding Scientific Publications

Contact Sandra Bigley |