Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New Link Between Ocean Microbes and Atmosphere Uncovered

22.05.2015

Microscopic-scale predator-prey relationship has global climate implications

A factor that determines the properties of clouds that help moderate the planet’s temperature may be decided in the oceans.


Credit: American Chemical Society

UC San Diego Distinguished Chair in Atmospheric Chemistry Kimberly Prather and colleagues induced two phytoplankton blooms in this 3,400-gallon wave flume at Scripps Institution of Oceanography to study ocean biology impacts on sea spray composition.

The oceans are home to phytoplankton, which when they decay, produce molecules that become airborne – if bacteria don’t eat the molecules first.

A team of researchers led by scientists at UC San Diego found that the process by which marine bacteria consume phytoplankton has an apparent direct role in affecting cloud properties. As the bacteria feed, phytoplankton break down into component molecules such as fats and lipids. The molecules the bacteria leave unconsumed can become airborne as the ocean’s surface churns. Once in the atmosphere, these organic-enriched sea spray particles join dust and other particles, or aerosols, in becoming the framework for the drops of moisture that ultimately congeal into clouds.

This conclusion, reported in the journal ACS Central Science May 18, comes nearly one year after researchers created a replica ocean on the campus of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, to observe in a controlled setting the types of marine particles that contribute to cloud formation and possibly human health issues once they become airborne. Because cloud cover and precipitation are major variables in climate, the field of aerosol research has achieved increasing prominence in recent decades. Understanding the dynamics of clouds is imperative for the creation of climate simulations that attempt to replicate atmospheric phenomena.

“It is exciting to finally be able to find a connection between microbes in seawater and atmospheric sea spray,” said Kimberly Prather, a distinguished chair in atmospheric chemistry with appointments at Scripps and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UC San Diego. “These chemical changes ultimately affect the reflectivity of marine clouds and thus could have profound impacts on climate over a large portion of the planet.”

The study draws data from the National Science Foundation-funded Investigation into Marine PArticle Chemistry and Transfer Science (IMPACTS) study conducted at Scripps’s Hydraulics Lab in summer 2014. Prather, who leads UC San Diego’s Center for Aerosol Impacts on Climate and the Environment (CAICE), and colleagues began with the observation that as plankton are broken down by bacteria, they can release many different insoluble fat-like compounds that later get aerosolized when waves break, producing sea spray. These chemicals include a vast array of molecules including proteins and their building blocks, as well as sugars and fats.

But understanding the factors that control the transfer of chemicals from the ocean to the atmosphere in sea spray has proven elusive. Some previous studies have reported that phytoplankton are the chief driver of the organic content of sea spray, but this has not been consistently observed in field studies.

In IMPACTS, the CAICE team sought to analyze sea spray in a controlled ocean-atmosphere environment to reveal which chemical components are transferred and when. The group recreated the ocean on a large experimental scale by importing 13,000 liters (3,400 gallons) of natural seawater from the California coast into a 33-meter-long tank that mechanically generates waves. Their results show that variations in the specific microbes in the bloom affected the concentrations of less water-soluble molecules such as lipids in seawater. In turn, bursting bubbles from the waves launched these molecules into the atmosphere.

Prather said the study has provided a new understanding of the importance of the complex interactions between microbes in seawater and how they control the composition and cloud-forming ability of sea spray aerosol. Such information will help researchers build better climate models. Among the cloud properties influenced by this microbial process is the clouds’ brightness. That brightness helps determine if solar energy is absorbed on Earth’s surface or reflected away from it, and thus influences temperature.

With the ability to generate sea spray aerosols in the laboratory during blooms, future studies will focus on developing a better understanding of the effects of biological compounds in sea spray on human health. Given that the biological compounds are inhaled by beachgoers and residents of coastal communities every day, their impacts could be substantial, but as of yet these effects are unclear.

Co-authors of the study, “Microbial Control of Sea Spray Aerosol Composition: A Tale of Two Blooms,” included scientists from the University of Iowa, Colorado State University, National Institute of Oceanography and Experimental Geophysics, Trieste, Italy, the School of Life Sciences, Xiamen University, Xiamen, China, University of Wisconsin, and UC Davis.

Besides NSF, support for the study came from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the China Scholarship Council.

Contact Information
Robert Monroe
858-534-3624
scrippsnews@ucsd.edu

Robert Monroe | newswise
Further information:
http://www.ucsd.edu/

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland
19.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg

nachricht Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle
17.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland

19.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Not of Divided Mind

19.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Molecule flash mob

19.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>