Sea spray aerosol (SSA) formation have a major role in the climate system, but measurements at a global-scale of this micro-scale process are highly challenging. We measured high-resolution temporal patterns of SSA number concentration over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and the Pacific Ocean covering over 42,000 km. We discovered a ubiquitous 24-hour rhythm to the SSA number concentration, with concentrations increasing after sunrise, remaining higher during the day, and returning to predawn values after sunset. The presence of dominating continental aerosol transport can mask the SSA cycle. We did not find significant links between the diel cycle of SSA number concentration and diel variations of surface winds, atmospheric physical properties, radiation, pollution, nor oceanic physical properties. However, the daily mean sea surface temperature positively correlated with the magnitude of the day-to-nighttime increase in SSA concentration. Parallel diel patterns in particle sizes were also detected in near-surface waters attributed to variations in the size of particles smaller than ~1 µm. These variations may point to microbial day-to-night modulation of bubble-bursting dynamics as a possible cause of the SSA cycle.
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