Air-sea gas exchange

The transport of gases between the ocean and atmosphere has profound implications for our environment and the Earth's climate. This is because the oceans are a major sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide and are also a source or sink for many other climatically active gases. There are many complex processes involved in air-sea gas exchange and understanding them is critical to future climate change scenarios.

Our research focuses on gases that exchange between the ocean and atmosphere. These include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, dimethyl sulphide and ammonia. These compounds are important for our climate because they are either greenhouse gases or influence the production and growth of particles in the atmosphere that reflect the sun’s radiation away from the Earth’s surface.

We also study a range of volatile organic compounds such as methanol and acetone, which influence the atmosphere’s ability to process and remove pollutants. These gases are present at extremely low concentrations and we have pioneered methodologies and analytical techniques to accurately measure their concentration and flux.

We use a combination of coastal and open ocean field experiments and laboratory studies to identify and quantify the mechanisms controlling the production and consumption of gases within the surface ocean. We recently established the Penlee Point Atmospheric Observatory at the entrance to Plymouth Sound. The observatory is an ideal platform for us to develop new monitoring techniques and to study the interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere.

Making a difference

Our work helps to improve understanding of the role that the oceans play in the Earth system. We use our data within models to understand how the air-sea fluxes of gases might change in response to various future scenarios including changes in marine biota, ocean acidification, warming and other stressors. 
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Further information

Please feel free to contact us if you are interested in working or studying within the group, forinfo@pml.ac.uk.

Projects

Ocean Regulation of Climate through Heat and Carbon Sequestration and Transports (ORCHESTRA)

Ocean Regulation of Climate through Heat and Carbon Sequestration and Transports (ORCHESTRA)

Contact: Dr Tim Smyth

Climate change is one of the most urgent issues facing humanity and life on Earth. Better predictions of future climate change are needed, so that...

Radiatively Active Gases from the North Atlantic RegiOn and Climate Change (RAGNARoCC)
Completed

Radiatively Active Gases from the North Atlantic RegiOn and Climate Change (RAGNARoCC)

Contact: Dr Vassilis Kitidis

The exchange of natural and man-made gases between the ocean and the atmosphere has profound implications for our environment. The speed of the gas...

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News

First direct measurement of air-sea methanol exchange

A new study by PML scientists has been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) describing the first direct measurement of air-sea methanol exchange over the open ocean, along a north-south transect of the Atlantic.

News

Sentinel-3 and the ocean carbon conundrum

An international team of researchers, including PML scientists, is using pioneering techniques to study how carbon dioxide is transferred from the atmosphere into the oceans. 

News

New buoy a swell solution

PML’s new Near Surface Ocean Profiling Buoy enables scientists to gain accurate measurements from the top few metres of the ocean.

Related publications

  1. Thompson, CEL; Silburn, B; Williams, ME; Hull, T; Sivyer, D; Amoudry, LO; Widdicombe, S; Ingels, J; Carnovale, G; McNeill, CL; Hale, R; Marchais, CL; Hicks, N; Smith, HEK; Klar, JK; Hiddink, JG; Kowalik, J; Kitidis, V; Reynolds, S; Woodward, EMS; Tait, K; Homoky, WB; Kröger, S; Bolam, S; Godbold, JA; Aldridge, J; Mayor, DJ; Benoist, NMA; Bett, BJ; Morris, K.J; Parker, ER; Ruhl, HA; Statham, PJ; Solan, M. 2017 An approach for the identification of exemplar sites for scaling up targeted field observations of benthic biogeochemistry in heterogeneous environments. Biogeochemistry, 135 (1-2). 1-34. 10.1007/s10533-017-0366-1
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  2. Sims, RP; Schuster, U; Watson, AJ; Yang, M; Hopkins, FE; Stephens, JA; Bell, TG. 2017 A measurement system for vertical seawater profiles close to the air–sea interface. Ocean Science, 13 (5). 649-660. 10.5194/os-13-649-2017
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  3. Bell, TG; Landwehr, S; Miller, SD; de Bruyn, WJ; Callaghan, AH; Scanlon, B; Ward, B; Yang, M; Saltzman, ES. 2017 Estimation of bubble-mediated air–sea gas exchange from concurrent DMS and CO2 transfer velocities at intermediate–high wind speeds. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 17 (14). 9019-9033. 10.5194/acp-17-9019-2017
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  4. Esters, L; Landwehr, S; Sutherland, G; Bell, TG; Christensen, KH; Saltzman, ES; Miller, SD; Ward, B. 2017 Parameterizing air-sea gas transfer velocity with dissipation. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 122 (4). 3041-3056. 10.1002/2016jc012088
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  5. Dall’Osto, M; Ovadnevaite, J; Paglione, M; Beddows, DCS; Ceburnis, D; Cree, C; Cortés, P; Zamanillo, M; Nunes, SO; Pérez, GL; Ortega-Retuerta, E; Emelianov, M; Vaqué, D; Marrasé, C; Estrada, M; Sala, MM; Vidal, M; Fitzsimons, MF; Beale, R; Airs, RL; Rinaldi, M; Decesari, S; Cristina Facchini, M; Harrison, RM; O’Dowd, C; Simó, R. 2017 Antarctic sea ice region as a source of biogenic organic nitrogen in aerosols. Scientific Reports, 7 (1). 10.1038/s41598-017-06188-x
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