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Environmental Controls on Coastal Coarse Aerosols: Implications for Microbial Content and Deposition in the Near-Shore Environment

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journal contribution
posted on 15.04.2011 by M. Elias Dueker, Kathleen C. Weathers, Gregory D. O’Mullan, Andrew R. Juhl, Maria Uriarte
Coarse aerosols (particle diameter (Dp) > 2 μm) produced in coastal surf zones carry chemical and microbial content to shore, forming a connection between oceanic, atmospheric, and terrestrial systems that is potentially relevant to coastal ecology and human health. In this context, the effects of tidal height, wind speed, and fog on coastal coarse aerosols and microbial content were quantified on the southern coast of Maine, USA. Aerosols at this site displayed clear marine influence and had high concentrations of ecologically relevant nutrients. Coarse aerosol concentrations significantly increased with tidal height (i.e., decreasing distance from waterline), onshore wind speed, and fog presence. As onshore wind speeds rose above 3 m s−1, the mean half-deposition distance of coarse aerosols increased to an observed maximum of 47.6 ± 10.9 m from the water’s edge at wind speeds from 5.5-8 m s−1. Tidal height and fog presence did not significantly influence total microbial aerosol concentrations but did have a significant effect on culturable microbial aerosol fallout. At low wind speeds, culturable microbial aerosols falling out near-shore decreased by half at a distance of only 1.7 ± 0.4 m from the water’s edge, indicating that these microbes may be associated with large coarse aerosols with rapid settling rates.