Microbes in the ocean produce the gas dimethyl sulphide, or DMS. It causes clouds to form above the sea, which reflect the sun’s rays away from the earth. Research suggests that plankton produce more DMS when they get hot so that clouds will cool them down. “Our work on the effect of carbon dioxide on DMS levels showed some interesting results” said Dr Steinke, from the University of Essex. “DMS production is likely to change in the future.”
DMS is responsible for the “seaside smell”. Dr Steinke discovered that plankton may use DMS when looking for prey like the way bees are attracted to fragrant flowers. “The role of DMS in climate change has been studied for years. Its role in marine ecology was unknown and this is what we are investigating.”
Marine animals including seals and birds use DMS to find food and navigate. “DMS plays an important role in oceanic food webs” said Dr Steinke. “If DMS levels change, many marine animals could find it more difficult to search for their prey.” This could have an effect on the food we eat.
Current discussions include using DMS in the “eco-engineering” of climate. Its cloud forming ability could be used to reduce global warming. However, Dr Steinke’s results show it may not be simple. “We have found that the production of DMS is much more complex than we thought and there will be plenty more surprises to come.”
Janet Hurst | alfa
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The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
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