Scientists are raising an alarm over the unexpected increases in ocean salinity. There concern is that the increase could impact ocean currents, which in turn can impact weather conditions. The salinity of seawater can accelerate the water cycle, which can cause extreme weather events like floods and drought. To investigate the issue of ocean salinity scientists have boarded the research vessel Knorr, which set sail on September 6, 2012. NASA’s Aquarius instrument is part of a separate research project that has been measuring seawater salinity from space since August 2011. In addition to ocean salinity, researchers are exploring the water cycle which involves the ways that water circulates between the Earth’s oceans, atmosphere, and land. This process involves precipitation and return to the atmosphere by evaporation and transpiration. Although seawater is not uniformly saline throughout the world, the vast majority of seawater has a salinity level between 3.1 percent and 3.8 percent. Ocean salinity has been stable for billions of years, however scientists have observed that the salinity of seawater has been changing over the course of the last five decades. These changes in salinity are accelerating the water cycle. As global temperatures get warmer, evaporation increases, altering the frequency, strength and distribution of rainfall around the planet. Salinity, water cycle, temperature and weather are interconnected phenomenon. Ocean salinity is important because it affects ocean circulation; this in turn affects ocean temperatures, which can alter the weather.
Photo Credit: John Vlahakis