UCL Engineering


Webinar | How the ocean breathes (and why the bubbles matter)

02 June 2021, 1:00 pm–2:00 pm

Dr Helen Czerski in the Arctic, wearing a hi-vis coat and holding equipment.

Join Dr Helen Czerski in this UCL Engineering webinar, chaired by UCL Mechanical Engineering's Dr Nelia Jurado Pontes. How do we study bubbles in the ocean? Why do these bubbles matter? What implications can this science have for a world with a warmer climate? The results from two major expeditions will be discussed; one to the North Atlantic, and one to the North Pole. Find out more about mass transfer mechanisms, global warming and non-invasive sensors.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Dr Nelia Jurado Pontes on behalf of Energy and Environment Research Division (UCL Mechanical Engineering)

Please note, this event is aimed at research students and academics from both UCL and elsewhere, though members of the public are also welcome to attend.

The ocean is a giant liquid engine that surrounds our planet and is critical for the storage and transport of heat, carbon, nutrients and life. Breaking waves and the bubbles they generate have a significant role in the movement of gases and particles between the atmospheric and oceanic reservoirs.

The topic of this talk is how we study those bubbles, why they matter, and what implications this science might have for a world with a warmer climate. The results from two major expeditions will be discussed: one to the North Atlantic during an autumn with very severe storms, and one to the North Pole, where the conditions are much calmer and the bubbles are generated by a very different mechanism.

The headline problem is one of connecting complex physics at different scales: how do we connect the fleeting presence of a 500 microns radius bubble at the ocean surface with the carbon uptake of the ocean over centuries? But to answer that question, we need to get non-invasive sensors into very challenging environments, and to be there at the right time. We’ll cover what we know so far, and what the next big questions in this field are.



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  • Caption: Dr Helen Czerski setting a non-invasive sensor during the Arctic expedition.
  • Credit: Mario Hoppmann.

About the Speakers

Dr Helen Czerski

Lecturer, UCL Mechanical Engineering at UCL

Helen Czerski is an ocean physicist, based in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at UCL. She did a undergraduate degree in Natural Sciences (Physics) and also a PhD in experimental explosives physics at the University of Cambridge and then discovered the ocean by accident. Since then, she’s worked at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, the Graduate School of Oceanography in Rhode Island, and the University of Southampton. Her research has several strands: the optics and acoustics of large (0.1-4mm radius) bubbles, their formation in breaking waves at sea, and their influence on air-sea gas transfer and aerosol production. Helen has a particular interest in the technologies used to detect bubbles at sea, and has worked on the development of both optical and acoustical techniques for making measurements in this very challenging environment. Outside work, paddling Hawaiian outrigger canoes provides a way for her to connect to the culture of the ocean even in London.

More about Dr Helen Czerski

Dr Nelia Jurado Pontes

Lecturer (Teaching), UCL Mechanical Engineering at UCL

More about Dr Nelia Jurado Pontes