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Ocean Bubbles

July 9, 2007

Bubbles play an important role in the exchange of gas between the ocean and the air.


How the ocean inhales. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

[Sound of gurgling water]

When the ocean bubbles, it breathes. At least that’s the way Grant Deane thinks of it. At the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, he’s been studying the role bubbles play in the exchange of gas between the oceans and the air. Recently, he’s been listening to the signature tones bubbles make when they form.

GRANT DEANE (Scripps Institution of Oceanography):
Because each bubble has its unique signature depending on its size, we can tell the size of the bubble—which is the thing we want to know. We want to know how many of them are there and how big are they.

Bigger bubbles are important because they help the oceans absorb carbon dioxide, and that helps keep our climate stable. Deane says understanding exactly how they work could help scientists make better models for predicting global climate change. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.