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Climate & Sea Spray

May 19, 2017

The variable chemistry of sea spray has a big effect on global climate.



Sea spray’s global influence. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

When ocean waves crash against the shore, droplets drift high up into the atmosphere, affecting the chemical composition of clouds and carrying minerals thousands of miles to landlocked ecosystems. Ocean spray is so important to Earth’s climate and ecology that UC San Diego chemist Vicki Grassian wanted to take a closer look.

VICKI GRASSIAN (University of California, San Diego):

And so we designed an experiment where we brought ocean water into the lab, and we produced waves. And then we examined in great detail the composition of each of the individual particles that were produced in the waves.


Among the findings she and her colleagues report in the journal Chem, is that ocean blooms of plankton and bacteria have a profound effect on the composition of these droplets, and ultimately our global climate. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon