Articles | Volume 12, issue 5
Research article
05 Sep 2016
Research article |  | 05 Sep 2016

Assessing the potential for dimethylsulfide enrichment at the sea surface and its influence on air–sea flux

Carolyn F. Walker, Mike J. Harvey, Murray J. Smith, Thomas G. Bell, Eric S. Saltzman, Andrew S. Marriner, John A. McGregor, and Cliff S. Law

Abstract. The flux of dimethylsulfide (DMS) to the atmosphere is generally inferred using water sampled at or below 2 m depth, thereby excluding any concentration anomalies at the air–sea interface. Two independent techniques were used to assess the potential for near-surface DMS enrichment to influence DMS emissions and also identify the factors influencing enrichment. DMS measurements in productive frontal waters over the Chatham Rise, east of New Zealand, did not identify any significant gradients between 0.01 and 6 m in sub-surface seawater, whereas DMS enrichment in the sea-surface microlayer was variable, with a mean enrichment factor (EF; the concentration ratio between DMS in the sea-surface microlayer and in sub-surface water) of 1.7. Physical and biological factors influenced sea-surface microlayer DMS concentration, with high enrichment (EF > 1.3) only recorded in a dinoflagellate-dominated bloom, and associated with low to medium wind speeds and near-surface temperature gradients. On occasion, high DMS enrichment preceded periods when the air–sea DMS flux, measured by eddy covariance, exceeded the flux calculated using National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coupled-Ocean Atmospheric Response Experiment (COARE) parameterized gas transfer velocities and measured sub-surface seawater DMS concentrations. The results of these two independent approaches suggest that air–sea emissions may be influenced by near-surface DMS production under certain conditions, and highlight the need for further study to constrain the magnitude and mechanisms of DMS production in the sea-surface microlayer.