Saturday, June 26, 2010

Smell that Ocean: Doesn't That Dimethyl Sulfide Smell Good

Source: DMS (click diagram to enlarge)
I love the smell of the Ocean. That salt spray and slight sulphur smell is reassuring. That smell comes from a chemical called DMS for short.
You know we are just now beginning to run one of the Earth's greatest experiments. There really should be thousands upon thousands of scientist of all ilks down in and around the Gulf of Mexico gathering data and recording information. Some of the big dollar foundations like Ford or Pew or whomever should put their monies here.
DMS (dimethyl sulfide or dimethyl sulphide {CH3SCH3}) is responsible for the wonderful smells we associate with the beach and the ocean.
"Gases diffuse across the air-sea interface, many of which are synthesized and emitted by microalgae. One of these gases is a sulfur based compound that has a strong characteristic odor. It has been suggested that variations in algal production of these natural gases play an important role in moderating our climate through their aerosols' effect on backscattering solar radiation and in cloud formation.1 "
In other words this smell is really important.
"A key process in the sulfur cycle is the transfer of volatile sulfur compounds from the sea to the land via the atmosphere. DMS is the dominant biogenic sulfur compound in the marine atmosphere and essential to the global sulfur cycle. The gaseous DMS is photo-oxidized to sulfated aerosols in the atmosphere. Berresheim et al. established a relationship between DMS, sulfate aerosols, and cloud condensation nuclei.18 Because the sulfate aerosols function as cloud condensation nuclei, DMS has a significant impact on the Earth's climate. Plankton production of DMS and its escape to the atmosphere is believed to be one of the mechanisms by which the biota can regulate the climate."
Gee, so this stuff is really really important.
So what happens when something, say an oil spill, stops the life cycle of the little plants and animals that form this DMS? Do fewer clouds form over that body of water? Does the lack of clouds let the water get warmer? Doesn't warmer water cause stronger tropical storms? Wouldn't stronger tropical storms disperse the oil further killing off more little creatures and decreasing DSM more and thus less clouds and that makes the water hotter that makes the storms stronger..........
Who the hell knows?
Maybe we should.
As they say in the White House no good crisis should ever go to waste. Let's get those egg heads out there and get busy figuring out what the hell his all means.
Read more: One
Read more: Two
And incidentally a variant of DSM can bind with and then carry toxic shit right through your skin or lungs.
Is this stuff in the surf? Sounds like the symptons the people are getting might just come from this,
Read more: Three

No comments: