Research Highlights - Professor Rob Walker's Group


Sugar Hitches a Ride on Organic Sea Spray

Sticky organic molecules hop aboard oily floaters and may influence the amount of sunlight reflected by marine clouds

Exiting the airport, travelers catch a taxi, Uber, or bus ride to their next stop. Seafaring sugar molecules floating near the ocean's surface take a similar tack. Instead of taxis, they hitch a ride on oily molecules floating by. 

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Montana State University, and Los Alamos National Laboratory found this "sticky" strategy not only shields these molecules from their soluble nature, it explains the discrepancies between models that predict sea spray's organic enrichment and the actual measurements of sea spray aerosol composition. 

The study's findings, published in Geophysical Research Letters, may explain how so many soluble sugars find their way into sea spray, and provide clues to how they may affect the amount of sunlight reflected by sea-spray-seeded clouds.