Published in the
Proceedings of OceanObs'09: Sustained Ocean Observations and Information for Society

PLENARY PAPERdoi:10.5270/OceanObs09.pp.34

Salinity and the Global Water Cycle

R.W. Schmitt(1), T. Boyer(2), G. Lagerloef(3), J. Schanze(1), S. Wijffels(4), L. Yu(1)

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The global water cycle is mainly an ocean-atmosphere phenomena, yet most studies have focused on the much smaller terrestrial component. Here we show that sea surface salinity has much to tell us about the global water cycle. We review evidence from oceanic salinity data that the water cycle is changing and connect it to trends in estimates of surface fluxes. We also discuss the important interplay between surface water fluxes and upper-ocean mixing processes that arises from buoyancy physics. Connections to the stability of the thermohaline circulation are treated. The strong non-linear dependence of the vapor pressure of water on temperature leads to predictions of an enhanced hydrologic cycle resulting from global warming, which has helped to motivate plans for new salinity sensing satellites SMOS (Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity) and Aquarius. The in-situ observational requirements for these programs, along with the opportunities provided for new field programs examining the details of the upper-ocean processes affecting sea surface salinity, provide strong motivation to expand our observational capabilities for salinity.

1Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, 02543, USA
2Nat. Ocean. Data Center, NOAA, Silver Spring, MD, USA
3Earth and Space Research, Seattle, WA USA
4CSIRO, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Correspondence should be addressed to E-mail: rschmitt@whoi.edu

This paper shall be cited as:

Schmitt, R. & Co-Authors (2010). "Salinity and the Global Water Cycle" in Proceedings of OceanObs’09: Sustained Ocean Observations and Information for Society (Vol. 1), Venice, Italy, 21-25 September 2009, Hall, J., Harrison, D.E. & Stammer, D., Eds., ESA Publication WPP-306, doi:10.5270/OceanObs09.pp.34

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