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Will marine dimethylsulfide emissions amplify or alleviate global warming? A model study

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Abstract:

Dimethylsulfide (DMS) is the most abundant volatile sulfur compound at the sea surface and has a strong marine phytoplanktonic origin. Once outgased into the atmosphere, it contributes to the formation of sulfate aerosol particles that affect the radiative budget as precursors of cloud condensation nuclei (CCN). It has been postulated that climate may be partly modulated by variations in DMS production. We test this hypothesis in the context of anthro pogenic climate change and present here, modelled for the first time, an estimate of the radiative impact resulting from changes in DMS air–sea fluxes caused by global warming. At 2× CO2, our model estimates a small increase (3%) in the global DMS flux to the atmosphere but with large spatial heterogeneities (from –15% to 30%). The radiative perturbation resulting from the DMS-induced change in cloud albedo is estimated to be –0.05 W·m–2, which represents only a small negative climate feedback on global warming. However, there are large regional changes, such as a perturbation of up to –1.5 W·m–2 in summer between 40°S and 50°S, that can impact the regional climate. In the Southern Ocean, the radiative impact resulting from changes in the DMS cycle may partly alleviate the radiative forcing resulting from anthropogenic CO2.

Le sulfure de diméthyle (DMS) est le composé sulfuré volatil le plus abondant à la surface de la mer et il provient en grande partie du phytoplancton marin. Une fois libéré dans l'atmosphère, il contribue à former des particules de sulfate en aérosol qui affectent le bilan des radiations en tant que précurseurs de noyaux de condensation des nuages (CCN). On a aussi émis l'hypothèse selon laquelle le climat est en partie contrôlé par les variations de la production de DMS. Nous vérifions cette hypothèse dans le contexte des changements anthropiques du climat et nous présentons une estimation, obtenue par modélisation, de l'impact sur les radiations causé par les changements des flux air-mer de DMS dus au réchauffement global. À des concentrations doublées de CO2 (2× CO2), le modèle prédit un faible accroissement (3 %) du flux global de DMS vers l'atmosphère, mais une importante hétérogénéité spatiale (de –15 % à 30 %). La perturbation relative estimée des radiations due aux changements d'albédo des nuages est de –0,05 W·m–2, ce qui représente seulement une faible rétroaction négative au réchauffement global. Il y a, cependant, de grands changements régionaux, tels qu'une perturbation pouvant atteindre –1,5 W·m–2 en été entre les latitudes 40°S et 50°S, qui peuvent affecter le climat régional. Dans l'océan austral, l'impact sur les radiations dû aux changements dans le cycle du DMS peut, en partie, diminuer le forçage relatif relié au CO2 anthropique.[Traduit par la Rédaction]

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2004

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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