Phenomena

Bursting Into Droplets

Our atmosphere is full of aerosols – extremely tiny particles and droplets of salt, dust, pollutants, and other substances. Wind’s effects alone cannot account for the sizes and quantities of aerosols we measure. Another potential source is the bursting of bubbles; more specifically, the bubbles that form at the oceans’ surface. Frothy, crashing waves often capture pockets of air. When these bubbles burst, the thin film of their surface ruptures into long filaments that break into tiny droplets. Such droplets can be small enough to get carried on the breeze, eventually evaporating and leaving the particulates that were once in the water to ride the winds. (Image credit: H. Lhuissier & E. Villermaux; see also: Y. Couder)

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