NASA sponsored scientists have discovered by knowing the salt content of the ocean’s surface, they may be able to improve the ability to predict El Nino events. Scientists, studying the western Pacific Ocean, find regional changes in the saltiness of surface ocean water correspond to changes in upper ocean heat content in the months preceding an El Nino event. Knowing the distribution of surface salinity may help predict events.
Salinity and temperature combine to dictate the ocean’s density. Greater salinity, like colder temperatures, results in an increase in ocean density with a corresponding depression of the sea surface height. In warmer, fresher waters, the density is lower resulting in an elevation of the sea surface. These ocean height differences are related to the circulation of the ocean.
The surface salinity in two regions contributes to El Nino events: an area of warmer temperatures and lower salinity in the western Pacific, and the higher salinity and cooler temperatures in the eastern Pacific. Differences in surface salinity are related to changes in temperature and upper ocean heat content, which are part of the El Nino phenomenon. They have the potential to influence the Earth’s climate through air-sea interaction at the ocean’s surface.
Rob Gutro | NASA Goddard Space Flight Cente
http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/tao/elNino /Nino -home-low.html
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