National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2010

Carbohydrate-like composition of submicron atmospheric particles and their production from ocean bubble bursting

Russell, L.M., L.N. Hawkins, A.A. Frossard, P.K. Quinn, and T.S. Bates

Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci., 107(15), 6652–6657, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0908905107 (2010)

Oceans cover over two-thirds of the Earth’s surface, and the particles emitted to the atmosphere by waves breaking on sea surfaces provide an important contribution to the planetary albedo. During the International Chemistry Experiment in the Arctic LOwer Troposphere (ICEALOT) cruise on the R/V Knorr in March and April of 2008, organic mass accounted for 15–47% of the submicron particle mass in the air masses sampled over the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. A majority of this organic component (0.1 – 0.4 μ m–3) consisted of organic hydroxyl (including polyol and other alcohol) groups characteristic of saccharides, similar to biogenic carbohydrates found in seawater. The large fraction of organic hydroxyl groups measured during ICEALOT in submicron atmospheric aerosol exceeded those measured in most previous campaigns but were similar to particles in marine air masses in the open ocean (Southeast Pacific Ocean) and coastal sites at northern Alaska (Barrow) and northeastern North America (Appledore Island and Chebogue Point). The ocean-derived organic hydroxyl mass concentration during ICEALOT correlated strongly to submicron Na concentration and wind speed. The observed submicron particle ratios of marine organic mass to Na were enriched by factors of ~102–~103 over reported sea surface organic to Na ratios, suggesting that the surface-controlled process of film bursting is influenced by the dissolved organic components present in the sea surface microlayer. Both marine organic components and Na increased with increasing number mean diameter of the accumulation mode, suggesting a possible link between organic components in the ocean surface and aerosol–cloud interactions.

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