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World Wise Words Group

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Grayson Brown
Grayson Brown

Ocean Waves Breaking And Marine Aerosol Fluxes



Sea spray are aerosol particles formed from the ocean, mostly by ejection into Earth's atmosphere by bursting bubbles at the air-sea interface.[1] Sea spray contains both organic matter and inorganic salts that form sea salt aerosol (SSA).[2] SSA has the ability to form cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) and remove anthropogenic aerosol pollutants from the atmosphere.[3] Coarse sea spray has also been found to inhibit the development of lightning in storm clouds.[4]




Ocean Waves Breaking and Marine Aerosol Fluxes



Sea spray is directly (and indirectly, through SSA) responsible for a significant degree of the heat and moisture fluxes between the atmosphere and the ocean,[5][6] affecting global climate patterns and tropical storm intensity.[7] Sea spray also influences plant growth and species distribution in coastal ecosystems[8] and increases corrosion of building materials in coastal areas.[9]


When wind, whitecaps, and breaking waves mix air into the sea surface, the air regroups to form bubbles, floats to the surface, and bursts at the air-sea interface.[10] When they burst, they release up to a thousand particles of sea spray,[10][11] which range in size from nanometers to micrometers and can be expelled up to 20 cm from the sea surface.[10] Film droplets make up the majority of the smaller particles created by the initial burst, while jet droplets are generated by a collapse of the bubble cavity and are ejected from the sea surface in the form of a vertical jet.[12][11] In windy conditions, water droplets are mechanically torn off from crests of breaking waves. Sea spray droplets generated via such a mechanism are called spume droplets [11] and are typically larger in size and have less residence time in air. Impingement of plunging waves on sea surface also generates sea spray in the form of splash droplets [11][13]. The composition of the sea spray depends primarily on the composition of the water from which it is produced, but broadly speaking is a mixture of salts and organic matter. Several factors determine the production flux of sea spray, especially wind speed, swell height, swell period, humidity, and temperature differential between the atmosphere and the surface water.[14] Production and size distribution rate of SSAs are thus sensitive to the mixing state.[15] A lesser studied area of sea spray generation is the formation of sea spray as a result of rain drop impact on the sea surface .[11]


The influence of sea spray on the surface heat and moisture exchange peaks during times of greatest difference between air and sea temperatures.[22] When air temperature is low, sea spray sensible heat flux can be nearly as great as the spray latent heat flux at high latitudes.[6] In addition, sea spray enhances the air/sea enthalpy flux during high winds as a result of temperature and humidity redistribution in the marine boundary layer.[7] Sea spray droplets injected into the air thermally equilibrate 1% of their mass. This leads to the addition of sensible heat prior to ocean reentry, enhancing their potential for significant enthalpy input.[7]


Ian R. Jenkinson, Laurent Seuront, Haibing Ding, Florence Elias; Biological modification of mechanical properties of the sea surface microlayer, influencing waves, ripples, foam and air-sea fluxes. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene 1 January 2018; 6 26. doi:


The following possible roles of SML physics in GER need also to be taken into account. Although the role of biologically changed 3D viscosity and 3D elasticity in the underlying water seems unlikely to affect GER directly, some of the OM responsible for this 3D rheological modification exchanges with the SML. In the SML OM also changes both 3D and 2D viscosity and elasticity. 2D rheometry (dynamic surface tension measurements) of water sampled from the surface film and of water sampled from the underlying layer show that 2D viscosity and 2D elasticity in the SML are generally loosely but positively related to primary productivity in the underlying water. Viscosity and elasticity are also generally higher in the SML than in the underlying water. OM released by phytoplankton, and locally by macroalgae, seems to be primarily responsible. GER, increased viscosity, elasticity, algal concentration, bacterial concentration and OM, as well as primary productivity, have been shown to relate positively to each other, albeit with much variance. Rheological modification also depends markedly on both the taxa and the life cycle stage of the organisms present. The strong dependence of 3D and 2D rheological properties on phytoplankton taxa suggests that past and future changes in phytoplankton ecology of the oceans may have a big effect on GER as well as on foam, aerosol and whitecap formation (Section 5), as well as on many fluxes.


Foams, including whitecaps and more extensive foam, have ecological functions in oceans, freshwater and salt lakes. For instance, both freshwater and marine foams have been found to efficiently trap particulate organic matter, such as fungal spores (Kohlmeyer, 1984) that can be stored in foams in a viable, ungerminated state for considerable periods of time (Harrington, 1997; Pascoal et al., 2005), dense populations of bacteria, algae and protozoa (Maynard, 1968; Tsyban, 1971; Schlichting, 1974; Velimirov, 1980; Eberlein et al., 1985; Napolitano and Richmond, 1995), and metazoa such as insects, polychaetes, mussels and crustaceans (Castilla et al., 2007). Foams have also been suggested to act as a source of nutrients (Harner et al., 2004) for pelagic and intertidal organisms (Bärlocher et al., 1988; Craig et al., 1989) due to their high calorific content (Velimirov, 1980). Furthermore, ocean foams carrying microbial spores have been proposed as world-wide distribution mechanisms for a variety of organisms (Hamilton and Lenton, 1998). The formation of stable foam near the discharge outlet of effluents from thermal and nuclear power plants is a recent, but growing area of research (Oh et al., 2012). These discharge outlets are particularly favourable to foam formation and persistence, favoured by the higher temperature of the effluent water and air entrainment by pumping, rapid flow and strong local temperature fronts. Such environments may be useful to study for foam dynamics and gas exchange, as physical models of how ocean foaming and gas exchange may react to temperature change.


Massive coastal foam events. a) Foam event at Audresselles, Pas de Calais, France, associated with bloom of Phaeocystis globosa. Note the flying foam to the right of the hotel, and also that the hotel roof is partly white, from wind-blown and sticky foam (insert is enlarged to show better some wind-blown foam aggregates); b) Foam at Cape Silleiro, Galicia, Spain, about a fortnight after gales in early February 2009. Such foam is produced by the action of breaking waves, entraining air into seawater, itself containing polymeric organic matter produced mainly by phytoplankton. Photos by Laurent Seuront (a) and Tim Wyatt (b). DOI:


Observations of coverage by whitecaps W in marine and freshwater were made in relation to U10 and TS (where TS has little effect.) These models were used to predict W around the world ocean. W was predicted to be highest in areas of high U10 particularly in the Southern Ocean. Thus these regions were predicted to be of great importance for global fluxes of gases and aerosols. Subsequently, analysis of satellite observations has shown that areas of high W also occur in the trade-wind areas, seriously violating this model, and throwing into doubt ideas on the world distribution of gas exchange, aerosol production and other air-sea fluxes. While the reasons for this discrepancy remain unclear, new findings suggest that tropical seas are richer in TEP than previously thought, and that much of this TEP is positively buoyant, showing pulsed rising to the surface, where TEP and associated OM may stabilise bubbles and whitecaps.


This complexity suggests that full prediction of gas-exchange reduction (GER) from knowledge of the molecular composition of the OM present may be impracticable for the next decade or two, and that empirical measurements of GER for different OM types under different ocean and meteorological conditions may have to be the principal way forward in the short term to understanding how OM and the biological communities that produce it reduce gas exchange in the present and future ocean. This complexity is likely to be increased even further for fluxes during heavy weather (Section 5.1).


Further difficulty in conceiving and validating models of air-ocean fluxes will come from the shear number of interacting causal factors. Thus, difficulty is likely to remain in validating models, so that the role of empirically obtained data on air-sea-fluxes may need to dominate research on GER and other aspects of air-ocean fluxes for many years to come.


Whitecap and foam coverage of the ocean surface W show a dominant positive relationship of W to 10-m windspeed U10, and many other physicochemical parameters also play a role. An important taxon-dependent role is played by phytoplankton blooms. Although much speculation has been published on roles of foam in modulating air-sea fluxes of many properties and substances, including gas, quantitative data is far from sufficient. Worldwide satellite observations have shown that in March W values in trade-wind zones are comparable to those in high latitudes, subject to higher winds and higher primary productivity, thus seriously violating current models of whitecap occurrence. Moreover, recent evidence has been presented of pulses of buoyant TEP migrating upward in tropical oligotrophic zones, which could provide an explanation for this apparent discrepancy. Measurements of CO2 exchange in different parts of the ocean have recently shown gas exchange reduction of up to about 50% positively related to OM concentration in the top 1 cm of the ocean at U10 values


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