Ocean life may help bring rain, snow
Giving a new spin to how rain occurs, scientists believe a lot of the organic matter in clouds is released into the air by breaking waves in the ocean.
"Ocean waves release microscopic bits of organic matter that could be important in bringing rain and snow on land," said atmospheric chemist Kim Prather of Univeristy of California - San Diego, adding that wave spray might be an important contributor to rain and snow fall.
To understand the phenomenon, Prather and his team pumped ocean water into huge tanks called wave flumes.
They started a wave generator and collected the particles that are released.
The team then ran the particles through a machine called a mass spectrometer that shows them each particle's chemical structure by using ions to measure mass and charge.
They repeated these experiments using different mixtures of algae to see which species release which particles.
"We found that some of these spectral profiles are near-perfect matches with ice-accreting all-stars we collected in flights over the Sierra Nevada mountains," researchers added.
According to Prather, understanding how these bits of organic matter fit into global climate is the long-term goal.
The team from the Centre for Aerosol Impacts on Climate and the Environment gave a presentation at the American Chemical Society's annual meeting last week.
The research team is measuring the organic particles released from waves and matching those to particles it found in rain- and snow-bearing clouds.
(Posted on 17-08-2014)