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Atmospheric warming altering ocean salinity

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A clear change in salinity has been detected in the world's oceans, signaling shifts and acceleration in the global rainfall and evaporation cycle tied directly to climate change.

In a paper published Friday (April 27) in the journal Science, Australian scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory reported changing patterns of salinity in the global ocean during the past 50 years, marking a clear symptom of climate change.

Lead author Paul Durack said that by looking at observed ocean salinity changes and the relationship between salinity, rainfall and evaporation in climate models, they determined the water cycle has become 4 percent stronger from 1950-2000. This is twice the response projected by current generation global climate models.

Atmospheric warming altering ocean salinity and the water cycle

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Posted (edited)

It looks like the salt is concentrating in certain areas. I wonder if this will effect ocean currents?

It's been dryer than usual here this winter and spring. Last year it was a lot of rain/hail and several tornadoes.

Edited by Hilander

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I wonder if this will effect ocean currents?

Most likely.

The properties of water play a major role in current dynamics.

A drastic change in the dynamics of water (and air) currents is quite possible and could be a tipping point in future evolution of climate. That is something seriously monitored by climatologists but at the same time, it is something that is quite complex and not fully understood.

Seeing as everything is evolving, I guess we will know soon enough and not like what we see.

Peace.

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Considering all life originated from the ocean, and a large amount of life exists in the ocean; a lot of organisms will be affected by this.

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Considering all life originated from the ocean, and a large amount of life exists in the ocean; a lot of organisms will be affected by this.

Seems like for now, the global salinity of the oceans might be decreasing. As for the impact on marine species, I shall find more at a later time.

OCEAN SALINITY

Source: http://www.ipcc.ch/p.../ch5s5-2-3.html

"Ocean salinity changes are an indirect but potentially sensitive indicator for detecting changes in precipitation, evaporation, river runoff and ice melt. The patterns of salinity change can be used to infer changes in the Earth’s hydrological cycle over the oceans (Wong et al., 1999; Curry et al., 2003) and are an important complement to atmospheric measurements. Figure 5.5 shows the linear trends (based on pentadal anomaly fields) of zonally averaged salinity in the upper 500 m of the World Ocean and individual ocean basins (Boyer et al., 2005) from 1955 to 1998. A total of 2.3 million salinity profiles were used in this analysis, about one-third of the amount of data used in the ocean heat content estimates in Section 5.2.2.

Estimates of changes in the freshwater content of the global ocean have suggested that the global ocean is freshening (e.g., Antonov et al., 2002), however, sampling limitations due to data sparsity in some regions, particularly the SH, means that such estimates have an uncertainty that is not possible to quantify.

Between 15°S and 42°N in the Atlantic Ocean there is a salinity increase in the upper 500 m layer. This region includes the North Atlantic subtropical gyre. In the 42°N to 72°N region, including the Labrador, Irminger and Icelandic Seas, there is a freshening trend (discussed further in Section 5.3). The increase in salinity north of 72°N (Arctic Ocean) is highly uncertain because of the paucity of data in this region.

South of 50°S in the polar region of the Southern Ocean, there is a relatively weak freshening signal. Freshening occurs throughout most of the Pacific with the exception of the South Pacific subtropical gyre between 8°S and 32°S and above 300 m where there is an increase in salinity. The near-surface Indian Ocean is characterised mainly by increasing salinity. However, in the latitude band 5°S to 42°S (South Indian gyre) in the depth range of 200 to 1,000 m, there is a freshening of the water column.

The results shown here document that ocean salinity and hence freshwater are changing on gyre and basin scales, with the near-surface waters in the more evaporative regions increasing in salinity in almost all ocean basins. In the high-latitude regions in both hemispheres the surface waters are freshening consistent with these regions having greater precipitation, although higher runoff, ice melting, advection and changes in the MOC (Häkkinen, 2002) may also contribute. In addition to these meridional changes, the Atlantic is becoming saltier over much of the water column (Figure 5.5 and Boyer et al., 2005). Although the South Pacific subtropical region is becoming saltier, on average the whole water column in the Pacific Basin is becoming fresher (Boyer et al., 2005). The increasing difference in volume-averaged salinity between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans suggests changes in freshwater transport between these two ocean basins.

We are confident that vertically coherent gyre and basin scale changes have occurred in the salinity (freshwater content) of parts of the World Ocean during the past several decades. While the available data and their analyses are insufficient to identify in detail the origin of these changes, the patterns are consistent with a change in the Earth’s hydrological cycle, in particular with changes in precipitation and inferred larger water transport in the atmosphere from low latitudes to high latitudes and from the Atlantic to the Pacific (see Section 3.3.2)."

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