The salinity of the ocean is one component of global climate modeling, and up until now, it is a component with sparse and irregular data points. Traditional salinity measurements have been taken by ship, buoy and aircraft, but without consistency and continuity. NASA’s Aquarius salinity measurement instrument is preparing to launch this month and promises to collect data covering all non-ice-cap water in the world’s oceans every 6 days for at least 3 years. This crucial component of climate modeling will hopefully allow more accurate predictions of global climate change. From the press release:
Salinity influences the very motion of the ocean and the temperature of seawater, because the concentration of sea salt in the ocean’s surface mixed layer — the portion of the ocean that is actively exchanging water and heat with Earth’s atmosphere — is a critical driver of these ocean processes. It’s the missing variable in understanding the link between the water cycle and ocean circulation. Specifically, it’s an essential metric to modeling precipitation and evaporation.
[Source: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory via Geology.com. Image: Committee on Earth Observation Satellites via NASA]