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PlumeBaSe: Tracing of ship plumes and impact to seawater

01.09.2022 - 31.08.2025
Project coordinated by:
Project manager (IOW):
Dr. Helena Osterholz
DFG - Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
Charles University Prague (Czechia)
PlumeBaSe aims at a detailed analysis of the composition of organic aerosols released by the combustion of fossil fuels on ships and their fate in the marine environment. By following the Plume aerosols and their transformations from the smokestack to the Baltic Sea water, we bridge the gap between atmospheric and marine sciences. The increasing global transport of goods via waterways augments the pressure on marine ecosystems. Large ships disperse, besides gaseous pollutants, huge amounts of particles which contain trace metals and organic pollutants into the atmosphere, from where they eventually settle and reach the water column. Adverse impacts of the acidic oxides and organic pollutants on the environment are widely recognized. Less is known about the ship-derived aerosol deposition to surface seawater and its contribution to marine pollution. Especially the ageing processes during atmospheric transport and in the water column, including UV radiation or reactive oxygen species mediated transformations, are not well understood although transformation products can have different effects on biota and their structure dictates their fate in the environment. To fill this knowledge gap, PlumeBaSe integrates multifaceted environmental samplings to provide an unprecedented coverage of ship emission transport and ageing. The project partners of the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde (IOW), University of Rostock (UR) and Charles University Prague (CU) will the address the following main hypotheses: (H1) Emissions from ship stacks significantly contribute to the pollution of marine surface waters with organic contaminants, especially near main shipping routes. (H2) During atmospheric and marine transport, the physical (particle size distribution) and chemical (patterns of organic com-pounds) properties of the emitted aerosols change, altering their fate in the environment. (H3) The molecular-level transformations can be tracked and used to distinguish airborne ship emission-derived organic contaminants from inputs by wet scrubber technologies via their chemical profiles. These main objectives of the project are distributed among three work packages and addressed via I. Airborne measurements of highly time-and-space resolved aerosol particle size spectra by airship in plumes, combined with the most sensitive targeted and untargeted chemical analyses applied to II. Airborne size segregated aerosol; and III. Water-dispersed pollutants. The Baltic Sea with high ship traffic, good accessibility and regulated ship emissions provides the ideal setting for the proposed work and can act as a model system for future impacts of marine traffic in larger parts of the world’s coastal oceans.


  • Rosewig, E. I., J. Schade, J. Passig, H. Osterholz, R. Irsig, D. Smok, N. Gawlitta, J. Schnelle-Kreis, J. Hovorka, D. Schulz-Bull, R. Zimmermann and T. W. Adam (2023). Remote detection of different marine fuels in exhaust plumes by onboard measurements in the Baltic Sea using single-particle mass spectrometry. Atmosphere 14: 849, doi: 10.3390/atmos14050849