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Mixing silicate dust and sea salt.

Mixing silicate dust and sea salt

Particles found in the air, even over ocean regions far from land, often contain a mixture of silicate dust and sea salt. The dust travels long distances from sources on land and the sea salt particles are generated in spray at the ocean surface. A recent analysis shows that the mixing of these substances probably occurs within clouds above the water.

Reporting in the June 27 SCIENCE, Meinrat O. Andreae of Florida State University in Tallahassee and his collegues suggest that wet dust particles can act as nuclei around which water condenses to form drops. Other dry particles collide with existing drops of water. Because most cloud droplets evaporate rather than fall, anything already dissolved in the water will be deposited as a layer on a particle's surface. This process, along with the coalescence of cloud droplets, happens repeatedly for both salt and dust to create airborne particles that are rich in both silicates and salt.

A similar process, the researchers say, may also lead to the mixing of sulfate-bearing particles with sea salt. That also brings sulfate into cloud droplets where various chemical reactions can take place. Studies of the process may lead to better estimates of how long particles associated with acid rain or radioactive fallout stay in the atmosphere.
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Title Annotation:dust particle research
Publication:Science News
Date:Jul 12, 1986
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