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Bubble physicist counts bubbles in the ocean to answer questions about climate, sound, light
Date:1/21/2010

to 170 microns in size, and she is assessing the accuracy and uncertainty in the measurements.

She recently used the resonator to collect bubble data near the Hawaiian Islands and in the Santa Barbara Channel off Southern California. She counts bubbles down to 10 meters deep most bubbles don't go down much further than that, she said. The big ones float back to the surface while the smallest ones gets squeezed out by the pressure as they sink.

"Just after a wave breaks, there are loads of bubbles and they're changing really, really quickly," Czerski explained. "They're stretching and squishing and bumping into each other and breaking into smaller bubbles and they're doing it all too fast for us to see directly. Whenever they break up, each new bubble makes a 'ping' sound, and if you hear it you can say something about those new bubbles."

Czerski said that understanding the physics of bubbles is increasingly important as climate models become more and more refined.

"We need to study bubble distribution and where they go in the water column to understand the exchange of gases that they carry," she said.

According to Czerski, while carbon dioxide and oxygen get carried into the ocean via bubbles, a chemical compound produced by phytoplankton gets carried out of the ocean via bubbles.

"No one really knows why phytoplankton create dimethyl sulfide, but they do, and it passes into bubbles and is carried up and out," she said. "These bubbles supply sulfur to the atmosphere, which acts as a seed for cloud droplets to form.

"Climate is made up of a whole bunch of little things, including bubbles, and these little things matter because there are lots of them," Czerski said.

Czerski began studying bubbles after earning a Ph.D. in a field she described as "blowing things up," which included becoming expert at high-speed photography. She then looked for disciplines in which she could apply this knowl
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Contact: Todd McLeish
tmcleish@uri.edu
401-874-2116
University of Rhode Island
Source:Eurekalert

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