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Cool gas in warm summers

Geophys. Res. Lett. (2019).

Dimethylsulfide (DMS) is a naturally-produced gas that has been called the ‘anti-greenhouse gas’ due to its potential to cause cloud formation, which alters how much solar radiation makes it through the atmosphere. In sunlit zones of the ocean, microbial activity can produce enough DMS that the ocean serves as a net source to the atmosphere, especially in sub-Arctic regions. It has been suggested that warmer waters will lead to more DMS production in high-latitude waters, but this has not been proven in many areas, including the Bering Sea.

To gain understanding of potential high latitude changes, Cheng-Xuan Li, from the First Institute of Oceanography in China, and colleagues measured DMS production in the Bering Sea in the summers of 2012, 2014 and 2016. While 2012 was relatively cold, 2014 and 2016 were both warm. The warmer summers led to increased DMS concentrations, that were also more widespread throughout the Bering Sea and reached into deeper waters. Although the role DMS plays in the atmosphere is still debated, if it does lead to more clouds and cooler weather, there might be some relief from warming at high latitudes.

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Correspondence to Laura Zinke.

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Zinke, L. Cool gas in warm summers. Nat. Clim. Chang. 9, 434 (2019).

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