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UEA scientists research gas that helps cool the climate

28 July 2023

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Scientists at the University of East Anglia, in collaboration with the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, have started a study to investigate a gas, produced by oceanic organisms, that could have a big impact on our planet.

Dimethyl Sulphide (DMS) is produced by tiny ocean plants and is responsible for that seaside odor we smell when we visit the seaside or go on a boat. DMS helps drive the formation of clouds, which in turn block solar radiation and reflect it. With enough DMS forming clouds, the blocking of solar radiation can create a cooling effect, that could possible offset global warming.

Whilst this gas is mostly associated with the ocean, scientists at the University of East Anglia have begun looking at other places where this gas is produced. In some crop fields, this gas can be produced from the soil. Crops like Barley produce a compound that is converted by microbes in the soil into DMS.

The researchers at UEA, led by Dr Ben Miller from the School of Biological Sciences, are running a study using sensors placed in fields of Barley to detect and measure gases being produced from the fields. The sensors are operating off-grid at Easton College in Norfolk and every 30 minutes two sensors, one at knee height and one at ground level, capture and measure gas emitted from the crop as they grow. The data is sent directly from the sensors via 3G to the researcher’s lab.

The scientists are also planning to study other crops, like wheat, oats, and maize to see which one can produce the most DMS. The hope for this research is that it may one day lead to being able to produce DMS artificially at large scale using crops and microbes, to try and help cool the planet more significantly.

You can read more about this study on the UEA website here.

Main image by: Jani Pewter – Plymouth Marine Laboratory

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