Sources, Transport, Sinks of Black Carbon in the Oceans


Dr. Doris Meyerdierks (HWK) 


Prof. Dr. Rainer Lohmann, Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, Narragansett, USA


  • Prof. Dr. Thorsten Dittmar, Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment (ICBM), University of Oldenburg, Germany
  • Prof. Dr. Carrie A. Masiello, Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences, Rice University, Houston, USA
  • Asst. Prof. Dr. Sasha Wagner, Dept. of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, USA 
  • Dr. Cristina Santin Nuño, Faculty of Science and Engineering, School of Biosciences, Geography and Physics, Swansea University, UK
  • Prof. Dr. Ellen R.M. Druffel, Earth System Science, School of Physical Sciences, University of California, Irvine, USA
  • Dr. Alysha Inez Coppola-Varkalis, Dept. of Earth Science, ETH Zürich, Switzerland
  • Dr. Srinivas Bikkina, Integrative Oceanography Division, National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Goa, India
  • Dr. Helena Osterholz, Leibniz-Institute for Baltic Sea Research, Rostock, Germany
  • PD Dr. Matthias Zabel, MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, University of Bremen, Germany


2022 – 2024


Black carbon is a highly graphitized incomplete combustion byproduct that could be a sink for fixed carbon, especially when deposited to pelagic sediments. In the atmosphere, Black carbon is a key driver of global climate change; it is second only to CO2 in its contribution to global warming.  There is a general assumption that rivers deliver most or all Black carbon to the ocean. Yet the effects and fluxes of BC are not well captured in general atmospheric and oceanic circulation models.


The main goals of the study group are to gain a holistic understanding of the sources, transport, and sinks of black carbon in the oceans, by working with experts that also cover atmospheric sciences and paleo-oceanography in addition to oceanography, analytical, organic and isotope geochemistry. In more detail, the focus will be on:

  • assessing sources of Black carbon, 
  • the importance of particulate versus dissolved Black carbon, 
  • tools for studying Black carbon dynamics, 
  • the use of Black carbon as a paleotracer, and 
  • the different methods used for Black carbon.

Expected Products

Various black carbon/ carbon cycling experts (atmosphere, water, sediment) with different tools (dissolved black carbon, soot, molecular versus bulk) will look at big picture black carbon budgets and synthesize individual studies over the duration of the study group. The group will start with a "white paper" (critical review paper) that defines state of the art and open questions, and then proceeds to answer some of these questions over the next few years. At the initial meeting, we will agree whether it is advisable to work towards the publication of a book on Black carbon in the oceans, or rather work towards a series of journal publications as the outcome of the study group.


January 13 to 14, 2022: Kick-off (online)
February 17, 2022: 2nd Meeting (online)
May 12, 2022: 3rd Meeting (online)
July 6, 2022: 4th Meeting (online)
September 29 to 30, 2022: 5th Meeting (online)
November 16, 2022: Sub-group meeting (online) 
May 31 to June 6, 2023: 1st Presence meeting (hybrid)