January 5, 2021
Journal Article

Ejection of dust from the ocean as a potential source of marine ice nucleating particles

Gavin Cornwell
Camille Sultana
Marje Prank
Richard Cochran
Gregory Schill
Thomas Hill
Paul Demott
Natalie Mahowald
Kimberly Prather


Oceans are, generally, relatively weak sources of ice nucleating particles (INPs). Thus, dust transported from terrestrial regions can dominate atmospheric INP concentrations even in remote marine regions. Studies of ocean-emitted INPs have focused upon sea spray aerosols containing biogenic species. Even though large concentrations of dust are transported over marine regions, resuspended dust has never been explicitly considered as another possible source of ocean-emitted INPs. Current models assume that deposited dust is not re-emitted from surface waters. Our laboratory studies of aerosol particles produced from coastal seawater and synthetic seawater doped with dust show that dust can indeed be ejected from water during bubble bursting. INP concentration measurements show these ejected dust particles retain ice nucleating activity. Doping synthetic seawater to simulate a strong dust deposition event produced INPs active at temperatures colder than -13 °C and INP concentrations one to two orders of magnitude greater than either lab sea spray or marine boundary layer measurements. The relevance of these laboratory findings is highlighted by single particle composition measurements along the Californian coast where at least 9% of dust particles were mixed with sea salt. Additionally, global modeling studies show that resuspension of dust from the ocean could exert the most impact over the Southern Ocean, where ocean-emitted INPs are thought to dominate atmospheric INP populations. More work characterizing the factors governing the resuspension of dust particles is required to understand the potential impact upon clouds.

Revised: January 5, 2021 | Published: December 27, 2020


Cornwell G.C., C.M. Sultana, M. Prank, R.E. Cochran, T.C. Hill, G.P. Schill, and P. Demott, et al. 2020. "Ejection of dust from the ocean as a potential source of marine ice nucleating particles." Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres 125, no. 24:Article No. e2020JD033073. PNNL-SA-157345. doi:10.1029/2020JD033073