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Studying seawater saltiness a key to climate change (Eco news)


A satellite slated to launch into space next week will study the saltiness of the oceans, and, scientists hope, provide a better grasp of extreme weather events.

Huge swaths of ocean in the Southern Hemisphere have never been measured for saltiness.  And some scientists say that mapping the amount of dissolved salt content and how it’s distributed in the world’s oceans is a key step toward giving us a better grasp of extreme weather events.

A satellite called Aquarius has been designed to fill this missing piece of the climate puzzle and is scheduled to launch into space from the Vandenberg Air Force Base on June 9.  The $287 million instrument has been built take fantastically precise measurements of the ocean's surface salinity: where it's salty and where it's not so salty. Scientists will use the data to create a detailed global salinity map.  

From space, Aquarius can detect the equivalent of 1/8 of a teaspoon of salt in a one gallon bucket of water, an amount so highly concentrated it's invisible to the taste buds.

If all goes as planned, Aquarius will start collecting data about three weeks after launch.  That data will have to be verified against ground measurements.  And then the team will start creating maps.  First objective, scientists say, is a comprehensive, high-resolution map of the ocean’s salinity distribution.  Then, they’ll measure salinity over the seasons, and eventually, changes in salinity from year to year.  The mission is a joint undertaking between NASA and the Argentine space agency, CONAE.

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