NARRAGANSETT, R.I. January 21, 2010 The bubbles in your champagne that appear to jump out of your glass and tickle your nose are exhibiting a behavior quite similar to the tiny bubbles found throughout the world's oceans, according to bubble physicist Helen Czerski.
But while the champagne bubbles are likely to raise your spirits, those in the ocean can cause clouds to form and affect the climate.
"Bubbles are little packets of gases that rise or fall and can be carried around as if they're on little conveyor belts," said Czerski, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography. "They carry carbon dioxide and oxygen from the atmosphere down into the ocean, and then when they go back up again they pop and sulfur compounds from marine plants are sent upward, forming particles in the air that lead to the formation of clouds."
Czerski is studying how to detect and count ocean bubbles of different sizes to help scientists in other disciplines create more accurate models. She said that scientists have found it difficult to judge the effect of bubbles on their data for years and usually have had to add a "fudge factor" to account for them.
"For instance, bubbles ring like bells when they are formed or when sound waves go past them, and if you're studying sounds traveling through the ocean like sounds from whales or sonar bubbles can get in the way of what you're trying to listen for," said Czerski, who earned a Ph.D. from Cambridge University before spending a year studying bubbles at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego and then moving to URI.
"Bubbles also scatter light strongly in the oceans and make things cloudy, so if you're studying light in the ocean you need to understand bubbles," she added.
The URI scientist uses an acoustical resonator to detect and count bubbles of different sizes in the water column. The device can detect bubbles from 3
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University of Rhode Island