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The Atlantic Ocean surface microlayer from 50°N to 50°S is ubiquitously enriched in surfactants at wind speeds up to 13m s-1

Lookup NU author(s): Bita Sabbaghzadeh, Professor Robert Upstill-GoddardORCiD, Dr Ryan Pereira



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


We report the first measurements of surfactant activity (SA) in the sea surface microlayer (SML) and in sub-surface waters (SSW) at the ocean basin scale, for two Atlantic Meridional Transects (AMT) from 50°N to 50°S during 2014 and 2015. Northern hemisphere (NH) SA was significantly higher than southern hemisphere (SH) SA in the SML and in the SSW. SA enrichment factors (EF = SASML/SASSW) were also higher in the NH, for wind speeds up to ~13 m s-1, questioning a prior assertion that Atlantic Ocean wind speeds > 12 m s-1 poleward of 30°N and 30°S would preclude high EFs and showing the SML to be self-sustaining with respect to SA. Our results imply that surfactants exert a control on air-sea CO2 exchange across the whole North Atlantic CO2 sink region and that the contribution made by high wind, high latitude oceans to air-sea gas exchange globally should be re-examined.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Sabbaghzadeh B, Upstill-Goddard RC, Beale R, Pereira R, Nightingale PD

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Geophysical Research Letters

Year: 2017

Volume: 44

Issue: 6

Pages: 2852-2858

Print publication date: 28/03/2017

Online publication date: 20/03/2017

Acceptance date: 13/03/2017

Date deposited: 15/03/2017

ISSN (print): 0094-8276

ISSN (electronic): 1944-8007

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell


DOI: 10.1002/2017GL072988


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Funder referenceFunder name
NE/K00252X/1Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)