Direct night-time ejection of particle-phase reduced biogenic sulfur compounds from the ocean to the atmosphere

Cassandra J. Gaston, Hiroshi Furutani, Sergio A. Guazzotti, Keith R. Coffee, Jinyoung Jung, Mitsuo Uematsu, Kimberly A. Prather

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The influence of oceanic biological activity on sea spray aerosol composition, clouds, and climate remains poorly understood. The emission of organic material and gaseous dimethyl sulfide (DMS) from the ocean represents well-documented biogenic processes that influence particle chemistry in marine environments. However, the direct emission of particle-phase biogenic sulfur from the ocean remains largely unexplored. Here we present measurements of ocean-derived particles containing reduced sulfur, detected as elemental sulfur ions (e.g., 32S+, 64S2+), in seven different marine environments using real-time, single particle mass spectrometry; these particles have not been detected outside of the marine environment. These reduced sulfur compounds were associated with primary marine particle types and wind speeds typically between 5 and 10 m/s suggesting that these particles themselves are a primary emission. In studies with measurements of seawater properties, chlorophyll-a and atmospheric DMS concentrations were typically elevated in these same locations suggesting a biogenic source for these sulfur-containing particles. Interestingly, these sulfur-containing particles only appeared at night, likely due to rapid photochemical destruction during the daytime, and comprised up to ∼67% of the aerosol number fraction, particularly in the supermicrometer size range. These sulfur-containing particles were detected along the California coast, across the Pacific Ocean, and in the southern Indian Ocean suggesting that these particles represent a globally significant biogenic contribution to the marine aerosol burden.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4861-4867
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 21 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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