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Title: The Ocean's Vital Skin: Toward an Integrated Understanding of the Sea Surface Microlayer

Despite the huge extent of the ocean’s surface, until now relatively little attention has been paid to the sea surface microlayer (SML) as the ultimate interface where heat, momentum and mass exchange between the ocean and the atmosphere takes place. Via the SML, large-scale environmental changes in the ocean such as warming, acidification, deoxygenation, and eutrophication potentially influence cloud formation, precipitation, and the global radiation balance. Due to the deep connectivity between biological, chemical, and physical processes, studies of the SML may reveal multiple sensitivities to global and regional changes. Understanding the processes at the ocean’s surface, in particular involving the SML as an important and determinant interface, could therefore provide an essential contribution to the reduction of uncertainties regarding ocean-climate feedbacks. This review identifies gaps in our current knowledge of the SML and highlights a need to develop a holistic and mechanistic understanding of the diverse biological, chemical, and physical processes occurring at the ocean-atmosphere interface. We advocate the development of strong interdisciplinary expertise and collaboration in order to bridge between ocean and atmospheric sciences. Although this will pose significant methodological challenges, such an initiative would represent a new role model for interdisciplinary research in Earth System sciences.
 [1] ;  [1] ;  [2] ;  [3] ;  [4] ;  [5] ;  [6] ;  [7] ;  [8] ;  [8] ;  [9] ;  [1] ;  [10] ;  [11] ;  [12] ;  [6] ;  [1]
  1. GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (Germany)
  2. The Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, Plymouth (United Kingdom)
  3. Pacific Northwest National Lab. (PNNL), Richland, WA (United States)
  4. Kiel University (Germany). Kiel Marine Science, Institute of Physical Chemistry
  5. GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (Germany); University of Siena (Italy). Department of Biotechnology, Chemistry and Pharmac
  6. Leibniz-Institute for Tropospheric Research (Germany). Chemistry of the Atmosphere
  7. Helmholtz Zentrum München (HZ), Munich (Germany)
  8. University of East Anglia, Norwich (United Kingdom). School of Environmental Sciences
  9. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Seattle, WA (United States). Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory
  10. Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, FL (United States). Department of Marine and Environmental Sciences, Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography
  11. Leibniz-Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemuende (Germany). Biological Oceanography; Ossietzky University Oldenburg (Germany). Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment (ICBM)
  12. Newcastle University (United Kingdom). School of Marine Science and Technology
Publication Date:
Report Number(s):
Journal ID: ISSN 2296-7745; KP1703020
Grant/Contract Number:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Frontiers in Marine Science
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 4; Journal ID: ISSN 2296-7745
Frontiers Research Foundation
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Lab. (PNNL), Richland, WA (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC)
Country of Publication:
United States
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; 59 BASIC BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES; sea surface microlayer; air-sea exchange; neuston; aerosols; surface films; gas exchange; review
OSTI Identifier: