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Tiny plankton responsible for cooling Earth temperature

A new study in the Southern Ocean has revealed that tiny plankton play a significant role in formation of clouds and cooling Earth’s temperature. Marine organisms had a role in doubling the number of cloud droplets, and the findings have been published in the journal Science Advances on Friday.150717153639_1_900x600_1437304501667

According to the NASA-funded study, these tiny sea creatures have a major role in climate change by increasing droplets called aerosols. These droplets increase the reflection of sunlight, and create clouds in space which scientists view it as a “strong effect.” Similar to most plants, these green phytoplankton get their color from chlorophyll, allowing them to absorb sunlight. Then, they release a compound called dimethysulfoniopropionate, or DMSP.

“There is ocean with strong winds that kick up a lot of spray and lots of marine organisms producing these particles,” said climate scientist Susannah Burrows, Department of Energy.

Co-author Daniel McCoy of the University of Washington said that continental aerosols are mostly far away that they have only limited impact, and added that marine aerosols are running the show here. Data from the NASA satellite revealed that the clouds were made up of condensed and smaller droplets in summer. This results were surprising as the Southern Ocean surface waters are much calmer in summer, and spray less salt into the atmosphere. The researchers took data for sulfates and sea salts from the AeroCom computer model suite.

For organic aerosols, it was a tough task for Burrows and McCoy as they ended using a separate model simulating the organic matter within sea spray. The team created a new mathematical formula, to ascertain the relation between sulfates, organic matter and cloud droplet formations. The study also showed that ocean acidification could result in the low production of plankton DMSP, in turn raising global average temperatures by 1 degree Fahrenheit.

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About Anirudh Madhav

A movie buff, a bookworm, and a compulsive doodler. All posts by Anirudh

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