Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The salinity of Earth's oceans

In June of 2011, NASA launched a satellite named Aquarius, designed to monitor changes in the saltiness of the Earth's waters, rainfall and evaporation of Earth's waters, and climate and weather variations. Aquarius became operational in late August of 2011, and here is a map from its first two and a half weeks of data:

The red areas of the map have the highest surface salinity, and the purple areas the lowest.

By tracking changes in the salinity of the oceans, scientists will be better able to understand ocean currents and the movement of fresh water. For instance, the satellite captured images of the effects of tropical storm Lee as it hit Louisiana, causing the Mississippi River to discharge much more than it usually does, which led to a corresponding area of lowered salinity, pictured below.

The salinity of the area was only temporarily lowered, as can be seen in the middle image above. Read more about the data from this time period here: http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/pia15185

You can see the current location of the satellite here: http://aquarius.gsfc.nasa.gov/cgi/whereis_aquarius

To read more about the first map, go here: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/aquarius/multimedia/gallery/pia14786.html

For more information about the Aquarius project, visit http://aquarius.nasa.gov/

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