Articles | Volume 11, issue 6
Research article
18 Mar 2011
Research article |  | 18 Mar 2011

On the impacts of phytoplankton-derived organic matter on the properties of the primary marine aerosol – Part 2: Composition, hygroscopicity and cloud condensation activity

E. Fuentes, H. Coe, D. Green, and G. McFiggans

Abstract. The effect of nanogel colloidal and dissolved organic matter <0.2 μm, secreted by marine biota, on the hygroscopic growth and droplet activation behaviour of the primary marine aerosol was studied. Seawater proxies were prepared by the combination of artificial seawater devoid of marine organics and natural seawater enriched in organic exudate released by laboratory-grown phytoplankton cultures, as described in a companion paper. The primary aerosol was produced by bubble bursting, using a plunging multijet system as an aerosol generator.

The aerosol generated from seawater proxies enriched with marine exudate presented organic volume fractions on the order of 8–37%, as derived by applying a simple mixing rule. The hygroscopic growth and cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) activity of the marine organics-enriched particles where 9–17% and 5–24% lower, respectively, than those of the aerosol produced from artificial seawater devoid of exudate. Experiments in a companion paper indicated that the cloud nuclei formation could be enhanced in diatom bloom areas because of the increase in the primary particle production induced by marine organics. The experiments in the present study, however, indicate that the impacts of such an enhancement would be counteracted by the reduction in the CCN activity of the primary particles enriched in marine organics.

The extent of the effect of the biogenic matter on the particle behaviour was dependent on the seawater organic concentration and type of algal exudate. Aerosol produced from seawater proxies containing diatomaceous exudate presented higher hydrophobicity and lower CCN activity than those enriched with nanoplankton exudate. The organic fraction of the particles was found to correlate with the seawater organic concentration, without observing saturation of the particle organic mass fraction even for unrealistically high organic matter concentration in seawater. These findings are indicative that discrepancies on the composition of the primary aerosol between different studies could partly be explained by the difference in the nature and concentration of the organic matter in the source seawater employed.

Consistently across the experiments, theoretical analysis based on the Köhler model predicted a reduction in the primary marine aerosol CCN activity upon the incorporation of marine organics into the particle composition. This effect is consequence of the replacement of small inorganic sea salt molecules by large molar mass organic molecules, together with a moderate suppression of the surface tension at the point of activation of 5–0.5%, which leads to a dominance of the reduction in the dissolved solute in the Raoult term.

Final-revised paper