Air-sea gas exchange

Ocean-atmosphere exchange has profound implications for our environment and the Earth's climate.

The Air-Sea Exchange (ASE) group focuses on the processes that control gas and particle exchange between the ocean and atmosphere, which has profound implications for our environment and the Earth's climate. There are many complex processes involved in air-sea gas exchange and understanding them is critical to future climate change scenarios.

Air-sea exchange is important for the cycling of gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, dimethylsulfide 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 solar radiation away from the Earth’s surface.

We also study the air-sea exchange processes relevant to ozone, particles and volatile organic compounds, all of which are relevant to our understanding of how the ocean influences atmospheric processing and air pollution.

We established the Penlee Point Atmospheric Observatory, an ideal platform for us to study the interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere.

Our big research questions are:

  • What are the processes at the ocean/atmosphere interface that control the air-sea transfer of gases and particles?
  • What are the key biological and chemical processes in the surface ocean that control the concentrations of climate- and pollution-relevant trace gases?
  • How are the atmospheric emissions from ships and the regulation of these emissions influencing the marine environment?

Making a difference

Our work helps to improve understanding of the role that the oceans play in the Earth system. Our data is used 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. 

Recent projects the ASE research group has worked on or is contributing to include:

  • Atlantic Meridional Transect Ocean CO2 Flux from Satellite, AMT4OceanSatFlux
  • Atmospheric Composition and Radiative forcing changes due to UN International Ship Emissions regulations, ACRUISE
  • Ozone loss to the sea surface microlayer, O3-SML
  • Processes Influencing Carbon Cycling: Observations of the Lower limb of the Antarctic Overturning, PICCOLO
  • Shipping Contributions to Inland Pollution Push for the Enforcement of Regulations, SCIPPER
  • Southern oCean SeAsonaL Experiment, SCALE
  • Pathways and emissions of climate-relevant trace gases in a changing Arctic Ocean, PETRA
  • North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study, NAAMES
  • Ocean Regulation of Climate through Heat and Carbon Sequestration and Transports, ORCHESTRA
  • North Atlantic climate system integrated study, ACSIS
  • Land ocean carbon transfer, LOCATE
  • Methane Observations and Yearly Assessments, MOYA


Further information

Please feel free to contact Dr Tom Bell or other members of the group if you are interested in working or studying within the group.



PML is hosting the 8th International Symposium on Gas Transfer at Water Surfaces, 17-20 May 2022. See for further information.


North Atlantic climate system integrated study (ACSIS)

North Atlantic climate system integrated study (ACSIS)

Contact: Dr Ming-Xi Yang

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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Other recent news articles


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.


Acidifying oceans may threaten crucial links in Earth climate cycles

A review of more than two hundred studies highlights where research needs to focus if we are to understand vital oceanic processes that can alter the Earth’s climate.


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.

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