PerspectiveBIOGEOCHEMISTRY

Take the Shuttle--from Marine Algae to Atmospheric Chemistry

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Science  20 Aug 1999:
Vol. 285, Issue 5431, pp. 1217-1218
DOI: 10.1126/science.285.5431.1217

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Summary

The dimethyl sulfide (DMS) molecule is a key element of the sulfur cycle. Emitted by marine organisms, it is responsible for the formation of sulfate particles which affect climate and transport sulfur from the sea to the terrestrial biosphere. Numerous cruises have measured the emission of DMS from the sea. In a paper in Biogeochemical Sciences, Kettle et al. summarize and integrate the data from 134 cruises, and establish monthly and seasonal emission patterns across the world oceans. There is rough correspondence between areas of high DMS emission and the blooming of marine phytoplankton species known to emit DMS, although correlations with parameters such as chlorophyll concentrations are too low to allow determination of DMS emissions from satellite measuremens. Progress is most likely to come from further studies into the biology of DMS emission and accurate measurements of DMS sea-air fluxes.