The amount of ice present in clouds can affect cloud lifetime, precipitation and radiative properties. The formation of ice in clouds is facilitated by the presence of airborne ice-nucleating particles. Sea spray is one of the major global sources of atmospheric particles, but it is unclear to what extent these particles are capable of nucleating ice. Sea-spray aerosol contains large amounts of organic material that is ejected into the atmosphere during bubble bursting at the organically enriched sea-air interface or sea surface microlayer. Here we show that organic material in the sea surface microlayer nucleates ice under conditions relevant for mixed-phase cloud and high-altitude ice cloud formation. The ice-nucleating material is probably biogenic and less than approximately 0.2 micrometres in size. We find that exudates separated from cells of the marine diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana nucleate ice, and propose that organic material associated with phytoplankton cell exudates is a likely candidate for the observed ice-nucleating ability of the microlayer samples. Global model simulations of marine organic aerosol, in combination with our measurements, suggest that marine organic material may be an important source of ice-nucleating particles in remote marine environments such as the Southern Ocean, North Pacific Ocean and North Atlantic Ocean.
Summertime Arctic shipboard observations of oxygenated volatile organic compounds (OVOCs) such as organic acids, key precursors of climatically active secondary organic aerosol (SOA), are consistent with a novel source of OVOCs to the marine boundary layer via chemistry at the sea surface microlayer. Although this source has been studied in a laboratory setting, organic acid emissions from the sea surface microlayer have not previously been observed in ambient marine environments. Correlations between measurements of OVOCs, including high levels of formic acid, in the atmosphere (measured by an online high-resolution time-of-flight mass spectrometer) and dissolved organic matter in the ocean point to a marine source for the measured OVOCs. That this source is photomediated is indicated by correlations between the diurnal cycles of the OVOC measurements and solar radiation. In contrast, the OVOCs do not correlate with levels of isoprene, monoterpenes, or dimethyl sulfide. Results from box model calculations are consistent with heterogeneous chemistry as the source of the measured OVOCs. As sea ice retreats and dissolved organic carbon inputs to the Arctic increase, the impact of this source on the summer Arctic atmosphere is likely to increase. Globally, this source should be assessed in other marine environments to quantify its impact on OVOC and SOA burdens in the atmosphere, and ultimately on climate.