Community White Paper Proposal
Salinity and the Global Water Cycle
Lead author
R. Schmitt, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Woods Hole, MA 02540 508 289
2426 rschmitt@whoi.edu
Contributing authors
T. Boyer (NOAA)
Y. Chao (JPL)
R. Curry (WHOI)
A. Gordon (LDEO)
N. Bindoff (UTAS)
S. Wijffels (CSIRO)
J. Church (CSIRO)
G. Reverdin (LODYC)
M. Palmer (Hadley Center)
G. Lagerloef (ESR)
L. Yu (WHOI)
In terms of area and magnitude, the global water cycle is overwhelmingly an oceanatmosphere phenomenon, 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 from all
ocean basins that the water cycle is changing and connect it to trends in estimates of
surface fluxes. We further discuss the important interplay between surface water
fluxes and upper-ocean mixing processes that arises from buoyancy physics.
Connections to water mass formation processes and the stability of the thermohaline
circulation are also 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 and Aquarius. The in-situ observational requirements for
these programs will be discussed, along with the opportunities provided for new field
programs examining the details of the upper-ocean processes affecting sea surface