This is an important finding because lack of iron can be a limiting factor for plankton growth in the ocean - especially in the southern oceans and parts of the eastern Pacific. Addition of such iron nanoparticles would trigger increased absorption of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
"This could be a very important discovery because there's only a very small amount of soluble iron in the ocean and if plankton use the iron nanoparticles formed in clouds then the whole flux of bioavailable iron to the oceans needs to be revised," says Dr Zongbo Shi, lead author of the research from the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds.
Water droplets in clouds generally form around dust and other particles. When clouds evaporate, as they often do naturally, the surface of the particle can become very acidic. This is especially true where the air is polluted.
Paradoxically, scientists suggest that large scale industry in countries like China could be combating global warming to some extent by creating more bioavailable iron in the oceans, and therefore increasing carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere.
"Man made pollution adds more acid to the atmosphere and therefore may encourage the formation of more iron nanoparticles," says Dr Shi.
Scientists carried out the research by simulating clouds in the laboratory to which they added Saharan dust samples. They were then able to mimic natural conditions in order to monitor the chemical processes happening in the system. The laboratory experiments have been confirmed in natural samples where such cloud processing is known to have occurred.
The findings highlight the complexity of the pattern of natural iron delivery to the oceans, throwing new light on recent high profile plans to add iron to the southern oceans artificially to stimulate plankton growth.
"This process is happening in clouds all over the world, but there are particularly interesting consequences for the oceans. What we have uncovered is a previously unknown source of bioavailable iron that is being delivered to the Earth's surface in precipitation," says Professor Michael Krom, the principal investigator of the research, also at the University of Leeds.
The research was published in the September issue of Environmental Science and Technology and funded by the Natural Environment Research Council.
For more information
Dr Zongbo Shi is available for interview. Please contact the University of Leeds press office on 0113 343 4031
The article 'Formation for Iron Nanoparticles and Increase in Iron Reactivity in Mineral Dust during Simulated Cloud Processing' is available to journalists on request.
Notes for Editors
The University of Leeds is one of the largest higher education institutions in the UK with more than 30,000 students from 130 countries and a turnover of £450m. The University is a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities and the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise showed it to be the UK's eighth biggest research powerhouse. The University's vision is to secure a place among the world's top 50 by 2015. www.leeds.ac.uk
The School of Earth and Environment is established as one of the leading centres of international excellence across the Earth and Environmental Sciences. In the UK RAE 2008, we ranked second nationally in terms of research power. It focuses on a multidisciplinary approach to understanding our environment, studying the Earth from its core to its atmosphere and examining the social and economic dimensions of sustainability.
Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel
Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.
Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.
Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.
Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...
Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.
The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...
Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.
Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...
In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
09.04.2018 | Event News
20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
20.04.2018 | Interdisciplinary Research
20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy