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

North Atlantic climate system integrated study (ACSIS)

North Atlantic climate system integrated study (ACSIS)

Contact: Professor Philip Nightingale

Major changes are occurring across the North Atlantic climate system: in ocean and atmosphere temperatures and circulation, in sea ice thickness...

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...

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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. 

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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 recent publications

  1. Robson, J; Archibald, A; Cooper, F; Christensen, M; Gray, L; Holliday, NP; Macintosh, C; McMillan, M; Moat, B; Russo, M; Sutton, R; 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 observed changes in the North Atlantic Climate System with a focus on 2005-2016. International Journal of Climatology. (In Press)
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  2. 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. (In Press)
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  3. Hartman, S; Humphreys, MP; Kivimae, C; Woodward, EMS ; Kitidis, V ; McGrath, T; Hydes, DJ; Greenwood, N; Hull, T; Ostle, C; Pearce, D; Sivyer, D; Stewart, BM; Walsham, P; Painter, SC; McGovern, E; Harris, C; Griffiths, A; Smilenova, A; Clarke, J; Davis, C; Sanders, R; Nightingale, P. 2018 Seasonality and spatial heterogeneity of the surface ocean carbonate system in the northwest European continental shelf. Progress in Oceanography. 10.1016/j.pocean.2018.02.005
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  4. Brewin, RJW; Smale, DA ; Moore, PJ; Dall’Olmo, G ; Miller, PI; Taylor, BH; Smyth, TJ; Fishwick, J; Yang, M. 2018 Evaluating Operational AVHRR Sea Surface Temperature Data at the Coastline Using Benthic Temperature Loggers. Remote Sensing, 10 (6), 925. 1-23. 10.3390/rs10060925
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  5. Endres, S; Maes, F; Hopkins, FE; Houghton, K; Martensson, EM; Oeffner, J; Quack, B; Singh, P; Turner, DR. 2018 A new perspective at the ship-air-sea interface: the environmental impacts of exhaust gas scrubber discharge. Frontiers in Marine Science. 10.3389/fmars.2018.00139
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