Blooming phytoplankton seed clouds in the Southern Ocean | Science News


Science News is a nonprofit.

Support us by subscribing now.

Science Ticker

A roundup of research
and breaking news

Science News Staff
Science Ticker

Blooming phytoplankton seed clouds in the Southern Ocean

sea spray

Southern Ocean sea spray, similar to this off the coast of Australia, can launch particles from phytoplankton that seed planet-cooling clouds.

Sponsor Message

A plethora of phytoplankton kick up clouds in the Southern Ocean, researchers report July 17 in Science Advances.

The tiny ocean critters release organic matter and sulfates, which get whipped into the air and seed cloud formation. Those clouds reflect sunlight, helping to cool the planet. Using satellite data and computer simulations, researchers found that the particles boosted cloud droplet concentration by about 60 percent each year in the Southern Ocean, which encircles Antarctica.

Those puffy masses gliding over the remote ocean — the cloudiest region on Earth — could sway the atmospheric and ocean circulation in the entire Southern Hemisphere, researchers suggest.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content