Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Biogenically driven organic contribution to marine aerosol

Abstract

Marine aerosol contributes significantly to the global aerosol load and consequently has an important impact on both the Earth's albedo and climate. So far, much of the focus on marine aerosol has centred on the production of aerosol from sea-salt1 and non-sea-salt sulphates2,3. Recent field experiments, however, have shown that known aerosol production processes for inorganic species cannot account for the entire aerosol mass that occurs in submicrometre sizes4,5,6. Several experimental studies have pointed to the presence of significant concentrations of organic matter in marine aerosol7,8,9,10,11. There is some information available about the composition of organic matter12,13,14, but the contribution of organic matter to marine aerosol, as a function of aerosol size, as well as its characterization as hydrophilic or hydrophobic, has been lacking. Here we measure the physical and chemical characteristics of submicrometre marine aerosol over the North Atlantic Ocean during plankton blooms progressing from spring through to autumn. We find that during bloom periods, the organic fraction dominates and contributes 63% to the submicrometre aerosol mass (about 45% is water-insoluble and about 18% water-soluble). In winter, when biological activity is at its lowest, the organic fraction decreases to 15%. Our model simulations indicate that organic matter can enhance the cloud droplet concentration by 15% to more than 100% and is therefore an important component of the aerosol–cloud–climate feedback system involving marine biota.

Your institute does not have access to this article

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Organic matter at the sea surface.
Figure 2: Chemical composition of marine aerosols.
Figure 3: Seasonal characteristics of aerosol microphysics.
Figure 4: Increase in CDNC due to the addition of OM.

References

  1. O'Dowd, C. D., Lowe, J. A. & Smith, M. H. Marine aerosol, sea-salt, and the marine sulphur cycle: A short review. Atmos. Environ. 31, 73–80 (1997)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Shaw, G. Bio-controlled thermostasis involving the sulfur cycle. Clim. Change 5, 297–303 (1983)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Charlson, R. J., Lovelock, J. E., Andreae, M. O. & Warren, S. G. Oceanic phytoplankton, atmospheric sulfur, cloud albedo and climate. Nature 326, 655–661 (1987)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. McInnes, L. M., Quinn, P. K., Covert, D. S. & Anderson, T. L. Gravimetric analysis, ionic composition and associated water mass of the marine aerosol. Atmos. Environ. 30, 869–884 (1996)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Hubert, B. J. et al. Filter and impactor measurements of anions and cations during the First Aerosol Characterization Experiment (ACE 1). J. Geophys. Res. 103, 16493–16509 (1998)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Quinn, P. K. et al. Surface submicron aerosol chemical composition: What fraction is not sulfate? J. Geophys. Res. 105, 6785–6805 (2000)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Hoffman, E. J. & Duce, R. A. The organic carbon content of marine aerosol collected on Bermuda. J. Geophys. Res. 79, 4474–4477 (1976)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Novakov, T. et al. Organic aerosols in the Caribbean trade winds: A natural source? J. Geophys. Res. 102, 21307–21313 (1997)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Middlebrook, A. M., Murphy, D. M. & Thomson, D. Observation of organic material in individual marine particles at Cape Grim during the First Aerosol Characterization Experiment (ACE 1). J. Geophys. Res. 103, 16475–16483 (1998)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Putaud, J.-P. et al. Chemical mass closure and assessment of the origin of the submicron aerosol in the marine boundary layer and the free troposphere at Tenerife during ACE-2. Tellus 52B, 141–168 (2000)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Kleefeld, S., Hoffer, A., Krivacsy, Z. & Jennings, S. G. Importance of organic and black carbon in atmospheric aerosols at Mace Head, on the West Coast of Ireland. Atmos. Environ. 36, 4479–4490 (2002)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Kawamura, K. & Gagosian, R. B. Mid-chain ketocarboxylic acids in the remote marine atmosphere: Distribution patterns and possible formation mechanisms. J. Atmos. Chem 11, 107–122 (1990)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Gagosian, R. B., Peltzerand, E. T. & Zafirou, O. C. Atmospheric transport of continentally derived lipids to the tropical North Pacific. Nature 291, 312–315 (1981)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Gogou, A. I., Aposolaki, M. & Stephanou, E. G. Determination of organic molecular markers in marine aerosols and sediments: one-step flash chromatography compound class fractionation and capillary gas chromatographic analysis. J. Chromatogr. A 799, 215–231 (1998)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Cavalli, F. et al. Advances in identification of organic matter in marine aerosol. J. Geophys. Res. 109, doi: 10.1029/2004JD0051377 (2004)

  16. Gershey, R. M. Characterization of seawater organic matter carried by bubble-generated aerosols. Limnol. Oceanogr. 28, 309–319 (1983)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Mochida, M., Kitamori, Y., Kawamura, K., Nojiri, Y. & Suzuki, K. Fatty acids in the marine atmosphere: Factors governing their concentrations and evaluation of organic films on sea salt particles. J. Geophys. Res. 107, doi:10.1029/2001JD001278 (2002)

  18. Oppo, C. et al. Surfactant component of marine organic matter as agents for biogeochemical fractionation of pollutants transport via marine aerosol. Mar. Chem. 63, 235–253 (1999)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Blanchard, D. C. Bubble scavenging and the water to air transfer of organic material in the sea. Adv. Chem. Ser. 145, 360–387 (1976)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Geever, M. et al. Measurements of primary marine aerosol fluxes at Mace Head, Ireland. In Abstracts of European Aerosol Conference, Madrid, 2003, Vol. 1 J. Aer. Sci. S637–S638 (2003).

  21. Martensson, E. M., Nilsson, E. D., de Leeuw, G., Cohen, L. H. & Hansson, H. C. Laboratory simulations and parameterization of the primary marine aerosol production. J. Geophys. Res. 108, doi:10.1029/2002JD002263 (2003)

  22. Facchini, M. C., Mircea, M., Fuzzi, S. & Charlson, R. J. Cloud albedo enhancement by surface-active organic solutes in growing droplets. Nature 401, 257–259 (1999)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Nenes, A. et al. Can chemical effects on cloud droplet number rival the first indirect effect? Geophys. Res. Lett. 29, doi: 10.1029/2002GL015295 (2002)

  24. Beardall, J. & Raven, J. A. The potential effects of global climate change on microalgal photosynthesis, growth and ecology. Phycologia 43, 26–40 (2004)

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

This work was partly supported by the European Commission (Projects QUEST and PHOENICS), Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology, and the Irish Higher Education Authority, Italian Ministry of Environment (Italy–USA Cooperation on Science and Technology of Climate Change). SeaWiFS chlorophyll products were provided by the SeaWiFS project, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center and ORBIMAGE.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Maria Cristina Facchini.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Potential contribution of coastal sources to aerosol properties at Mace Head. (DOC 295 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

O'Dowd, C., Facchini, M., Cavalli, F. et al. Biogenically driven organic contribution to marine aerosol. Nature 431, 676–680 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature02959

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/nature02959

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing