The US space agency early yesterday launched a satellite to observe salt levels on the surface of the world’s oceans and measure how changes in salinity may be linked to the future climate.
The $US400 million ($A380 million) Aquarius/SAC-D spacecraft, a partnership with Argentina, will aim to map the entire open ocean every seven days from 657 kilometres above the Earth, producing monthly estimates that show how salt levels change over time and location.
”Data from this mission will advance our understanding of the ocean,” said Michael Freilich, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division in Washington.
NASA said the three-year mission would be ”the most detailed summary of conditions ever undertaken”.
Here are some details from the NASA site (aquarius.nasa.gov) about as to why:
The research-related goals of Aquarius include a better understanding of:
- The water cycle – 86% of global evaporation and 78% of global precipitation occur over the ocean; thus SSS is the key variable for understanding how fresh water input and output affects ocean dynamics
- Ocean circulation – With temperature, salinity determines seawater density and buoyancy, driving the extent of ocean stratification, mixing, and water mass formation
- Climate – As computer models evolve, Aquarius will provide the essential SSS data needed to link the two major components of the climate system: the water cycle and ocean circulation