You might associate that wonderful aerosol sea spray with a state of calm and peacefulness, as anyone who has felt it is always looking forward to experiencing it over and over again. However, that sea spray is not necessarily just a refreshing breeze but it actually has an effect on the atmosphere.
A study carried out by researchers from the University of California, San Diego, show that Sea Spray Aerosol (SSA) might help form clouds. In order to determine that, they analyzed the way in which marine bacteria feed on phytoplankton, which is the most important food source in the ocean. Their findings were quite amazing.
Experts from the Center for Aerosol Impacts on Climate and the Environment (CAICE) found that when phytoplankton are disintegrated by bacteria, they leave a vast amount of various molecules into the surrounding water, which can include sugars, lipids and proteins. After the molecules are issued into the air, they mix with dust and aerosols and form small humid drops that help create clouds.
According to Kimberly Prather from the CAICE, this is the first time a connection was found between Sea Spray Aerosol and microbes in the sea. “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,” she says. There have been other studies attempting to prove this connection before but they remained quite ambiguous.
The research team were able to have clear view over the whole process by simulating sea into a lab. They basically brought 3,400 gallons of sea water from the coast and placed it into a sea-atmosphere wave machine that they were able to maneuver as they wanted. They firstly observed how the species of less eater soluble molecules had their concentration affected by other types of microbes. Afterwards, they could see how the produced waves threw these molecules into the air.
The study also analyzed data from a study carried out at Scripps’s Hydraulics Lab, in 2014, called the National Science Foundation-funded Investigation into Marine PArticle Chemistry and Transfer Science (IMPACTS).
This information might prove very useful in the future, especially for researchers attempting to design better climate models and can help scientists explain certain phenomena.
The results of the study were published in the journal ACS Central Science.
Image Source: hagoyah