U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights


Ocean Biological Sources of Sulfate Aerosols More Sensitive to Climate Change than Previously Estimated
Published: March 31, 2011
Posted: April 06, 2011

Ocean biological activity is a natural source of atmospheric aerosols. These aerosols cool climate directly by blocking incoming radiation in the atmosphere and indirectly by enhancing cloud brightness. DOE-funded scientists modeled the influence of climate change on these ocean biological aerosol sources. Biological sources generate the gas dimethyl sulfide (DMS) in the ocean, which is converted to sulfate in the atmosphere. Model simulations for the start and end of the 21st century predicted large changes in DMS flux to the atmosphere of over 150% in the Southern Ocean. This was due to concurrent sea ice changes and ocean ecosystem composition shifts caused by changes in temperature, mixing, nutrients, and light regimes. The largest changes occurred in high latitudes, a region already sensitive to climate change so that any local feedback of DMS on clouds, and thus radiative forcing, would be particularly important. Comparison of these results to prior studies showed that the increasing model complexity used in this study predicted reduced DMS emissions at the equator and increased emissions at high latitudes, suggesting that the sensitivity of DMS to climate change could be much greater than previously estimated.

Reference: Cameron-Smith, P., S. Elliott, M. Maltrud, D. Erickson, and O. Wingenter. 2011. “Changes in Dimethyl Sulfide Oceanic Distribution Due To Climate Change,” Geophysical Research Letters 38, L07704. DOI: 10.1029/2011GL047069. (Reference link)

Contact: Renu Joseph, SC-23.1, (301) 903-9237, Dorothy Koch, SC-23.1, (301) 903-0105
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Earth and Environmental Systems Modeling

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER

 

BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

Aug 24, 2019
New Approach for Studying How Microbes Influence Their Environment
A diverse group of scientists suggests a common framework and targeting of known microbial processes [more...]

Aug 08, 2019
Nutrient-Hungry Peatland Microbes Reduce Carbon Loss Under Warmer Conditions
Enzyme production in peatlands reduces carbon lost to respiration under future high temperatures. [more...]

Aug 05, 2019
Amazon Forest Response to CO2 Fertilization Dependent on Plant Phosphorus Acquisition
AmazonFACE Model Intercomparison. The Science Plant growth is dependent on the availabi [more...]

Jul 29, 2019
A Slippery Slope: Soil Carbon Destabilization
Carbon gain or loss depends on the balance between competing biological, chemical, and physical reac [more...]

Jul 15, 2019
Field Evaluation of Gas Analyzers for Measuring Ecosystem Fluxes
How gas analyzer type and correction method impact measured fluxes. The Science A side- [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)