Laboratory experiments have been carried out to elucidate the role of surfactants on the primary marine aerosol production of submicron marine aerosols. A synthetic surfactant SDS was used in conjunction with artificially generated seawater, and the resultant bubble-mediated aerosol produced was observed. At 23 degrees C, the aerosol distribution resulting from the use of surfactant-free seawater comprised three modes: (1) a dominant accumulation mode at 110 nm; (2) an Aitken mode at 45 nm; and (3) a third mode, at 300 nm, resulting from forced bursting of bubbles. The forced bursting occurs when bubbles fail to burst upon reaching the surface and are later shattered by splashing associated with breaking waves and/or wind pressure at the surface. At 4 degrees C, the accumulation mode diameter was reduced to 85 nm, the Aitken mode diameter was reduced to < 30 nm and the 300 nm mode diameter was reduced to 200 nm. With the addition of SDS, the relative importance of the mode resulting from forced bursting increased dramatically. The laboratory results were compared to the observed seasonality of North Atlantic marine aerosol where a progression from mode radii minima in winter to maxima in summer is seen. The bimodality and the seasonality in modal diameter can be mostly explained by a combination of the three modes observed in the laboratory and their variation as a function of sea-surface temperature and seawater surfactant concentration. These results indicate that submicron primary aerosol modes would on a first approximation result from bubble bursting processes, although evidences of additional secondary processes leading, during summer, to a higher amplitude of the Aitken mode and mode 2 smoothed into mode 3 still need to be investigated.