New research in United Kingdom (U.K.) suggests that the amount of salt in seawater is varying in direct response to climate change. Working with data collected over the past 50 years, Peter Stott, head of climate monitoring and attribution at the Met Office in Exeter, England, studied whether or not human-induced climate change could be responsible for rises in salinity that have been recorded in the subtropical regions of the Atlantic Ocean. Comparing the data to climate models that correct for naturally occurring salinity variations in the ocean, He found that man-made global warming — over and above any possible natural sources of global warming, such as carbon dioxide given off by volcanoes or increases in the heat output of the sun — may be responsible for making parts of the North Atlantic Ocean more salty.
Salinity levels are important mainly for two reasons. First, along with temperature, they directly affect seawater density (salty water is denser than freshwater) and therefore the circulation of ocean currents from the tropics to the poles. These currents control how heat is redidtributed within the oceans and ultimately regulate the world’s climate. Second, sea surface salinity is intimately linked to water cycle and to how much freshwater leaves and enters the oceans through evaporation and precipitation. Measuring salinity is one way to probe the water cycle .