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

ESA-SOLAS - OceanFlux Greenhouse Gases
Completed

ESA-SOLAS - OceanFlux Greenhouse Gases

Contact: Professor Philip Nightingale

Transport of gases between the ocean and the atmosphere, known as ‘air-sea gas exchange’, have profound implications for our...

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...

AMT4OceanSatFlux

Atlantic Meridional Transect Ocean Flux from Satellite Campaign (AMT4OceanSatFlux)

Contact: Dr Gavin Tilstone

The AMT4OceanSatFlux project will measure the flux of carbon dioxide (CO2) between the atmosphere and the ocean utilising a state-of-the-art eddy...

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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

Campaign underway to measure carbon dioxide in the Atlantic Ocean

A group of scientists are currently travelling the length of the Atlantic as part of an exciting new project to measure the flux of carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) between the atmosphere and ocean.

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. 

Related recent publications

  1. Rérolle, V; Achterberg, E; Ribas-Ribas, M; Kitidis, V ; Brown, I; Bakker, D; Lee, G; Mowlem, M. 2018 High Resolution pH Measurements Using a Lab-on-Chip Sensor in Surface Waters of Northwest European Shelf Seas. Sensors, 18 (8). 2622. 10.3390/s18082622
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  2. Sargeant, SL; Murrell, JC; Nightingale, PD; Dixon, JL . 2018 Basin-scale variability of microbial methanol uptake in the Atlantic Ocean. Biogeosciences, 15. 5155-5167. https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-15-5155-2018
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  3. Hopkins, FE; Stephens, JA; Richier, S; Moore, CM; Cripps, G; Nightingale, PD; Archer, SD. 2018 Dimethylsulfide (DMS) production in polar oceans is resilient to ocean acidification. Biogeosciences Discussions. doi.org/10.5194/bg-2018-55 (In Press)
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  4. Robson, J; Sutton, R; Archibald, A; Cooper, F; Christensen, M; Gray, L; Holliday, NP; Macintosh, C; McMillan, M; Moat, B; Russo, M; Tilling, R; Carslaw, K; Desbruyeres, D; Embury, O; Feltham, D; Grosvenor, D; Josey, S; King, B; Lewis, A; McCarthy, G; Merchant, C; New, A; O'Reilly, C; Osprey, S; Read, K; Scaife, A; Shepherd, A; Sinha, B; Smeed, D; Smith, D; Ridout, A; Woolings, T; Yang, M . 2018 Recent multivariate changes in the North Atlantic climate system, with a focus on 2005–2016. International Journal of Climatology. 10.1002/joc.5815
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  5. Sommariva, R; Hollis, LDJ; Sherwen, T; Baker, AR; Ball, SM; Bandy, BJ; Bell, TG ; Chowdhury, M; Cordell, R; Evans, M; Lee, JD; Reed, C; Reeves, CE; Roberts, JM; Yang, M ; Monks, PS. 2018 Seasonal and geographical variability of nitryl chloride and its precursors in Northern Europe. Atmospheric Science Letters, 19 (8). e844. 10.1002/asl.844
    View publication

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