Phytoplankton affect clouds and precipitation

Authors


Abstract

[1] Phytoplankton in the ocean produce the gases dimethyl sulfide and isoprene, which can enter the atmosphere. To find out how this affects cloud properties and precipitation, Krüger and Graßl analyzed a variety of satellite observations over the Southern Ocean from 45°S to 65°S. They found that phytoplankton emission of these gases led to an increase in cloud albedo—the clouds reflected more incoming sunlight back upward—as well as to reduced cloud droplet radius and increased cloud optical thickness. Furthermore, they found that less precipitation occurred over the Antarctic Polar Front zone during strong plankton blooms. (Geophysical Research Letters, doi:10.1029/2011GL047116, 2011)