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  • For decades, scientists have speculated that there is a link between ocean microbes, cloud formation,

  • and ultimately, climate. But the logistics of studying marine microbes in their

  • native environment is hard. So an ambitious team of scientists at UCSD is trying to crack

  • that problem by bringing the ocean into the lab to study its biological, physical, and

  • chemical complexity like never before. "So, if you were out over the ocean in a ship,

  • as we have been, the chance of actually detecting these gases is very small, because they're

  • they react and they're gone before you can detect them.

  • Whereas when we move the ocean into the lab, this is where the power of that system really

  • stands out." Thisocean-in-a-labat the Scripps Institution

  • of Oceanography, is a 33-meter long pool that mimics the action of real waves. The tank

  • is enclosed and clean air is pumped in over the channel, allowing the isolated study of

  • aerosol spray and gases, which could include viruses, bacteria, and phytoplankton.

  • "It turns out that they're the phytoplankton blooms that happen all over our oceans produce

  • over half of the oxygen we breathe. And those processes actually changed the composition

  • of the ocean, which in turn can change the composition of

  • the atmosphere, which then changes the clouds." This is exactly what the team is studying

  • with their most recent project, “Sea Spray Chemistry and Particle Evolution”, or SeaSCAPE.

  • "So seascape is an experiment that was designed to try and understand how biology that happens

  • in the ocean affects our atmospheric composition and our clouds and our climate."

  • The first way marine aerosols form is through sea spray. When waves break at the ocean's

  • surface, bubbles burst, and sea spray containing salt and all those little microbes go airborne.

  • These marine aerosols can affect the formation of clouds over the ocean. They act asseeds

  • that water vapor and ice can cling to, condensing into tiny droplets that can eventually become clouds.

  • For instance, some types of aerosols can make clouds that are bright and white,

  • cooling things down. So aerosols can have a really big impact on

  • the temperature of the planet. It's one of the reasons the ocean is known as the planet's

  • thermostat, because it plays a large role in regulating climate.

  • "And the question was, why, you know, how is the ocean changing the properties and the

  • cooling ability of clouds? That was the big question."

  • The team first needed to establish a baseline of how ocean microbes were impacting climate

  • on their own... without any influence from humans.

  • So, we spent, I'd say 10 years sort of trying to understand that looking

  • at the spray what we call sea spray aerosol, and we couldn't even with the bloom... we could

  • not make the cloud properties change.” So with SeaSCAPE, they started to look at

  • the second way marine aerosols form which is through the production of gas from marine

  • microbes. This gas rises into the air above the ocean and reacts with other gases to form

  • new particles. The scientists added some reactive gases, like hydroxyl radicals, to the wave

  • tank to replicate human influences on the atmosphere.

  • "And now we started to see the changes in the cloud properties. And the simple answer

  • is that it's more than just the biology, it's the biology plus the chemistry, the chemical

  • reactions that actually lead to the changes that ultimately change the clouds."

  • One day, the team hopes to identify which pollutants pose the greatest threat to the environment.

  • The information could help revise inadequate climate models and help shape public

  • policies that address climate change. Another application of their work is understanding

  • how marine microbes in aerosols could directly affect us. Knowing which disease-causing microbes

  • in pollution runoff can become airborne through sea spray could help improve our understanding

  • of the potential risks to human health. In fact, theocean-in-a-labhas proved

  • so useful they're already building a facility that improves on the concept. The

  • new project, called the Scripps Ocean Atmosphere Research Simulator, or SOARS should be completed

  • in 2021, paving the way to a better understanding of the ocean's exact role in climate.

  • So, you know, healthy planet, healthy microbes, healthy people, like it goes hand in hand,

  • and we're all working together to keep the health of everything together, as best we can.”

  • If you want to learn more about the state

  • of our oceans, make sure to check out The Swim, a film that documents long-distance

  • swimmer Ben Lecomte's epic journey across the Pacific Ocean to highlight plastic pollution.

  • The documentary is available to watch on Discovery Plus, so please go check it out. If you have

  • science you'd like to see us cover, let us know in the comments below. And as always,

  • thanks for watching Seeker.

For decades, scientists have speculated that there is a link between ocean microbes, cloud formation,

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B1 US ocean spray climate marine lab sea

This Ocean Lab Is Uncovering the Mysterious Link Between Microbes and Climate

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    joey joey posted on 2021/04/28
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