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Published:September 9th, 2012 10:38 EST
NASA Voyager Mission to Study Climate Changes Due to Salt Levels in the Ocean

NASA Voyager Mission to Study Climate Changes Due to Salt Levels in the Ocean

By Ron G Anselm


If anyone has ever visited one of the beaches in Southern California (Malibu, Santa Monica and others) or any of the surfer hangouts there and if you have ever gone in the water then you know how salty the Pacific Ocean can be. I remember many times after I Boogie Boarded the many waves that roll in like a baker making loafs of bread and rolling the dough and after wiping out trying to ride that wave with the perfect crest; I got out of the water covered in sea salt and remember many times the water tasted like taking my tongue and touching a pile of salt.

Most people don`t realize that this salt that covers our beach bodies when getting out of the water at any of the oceans around the globe is also a key ingredient for studying climate change. We are now in the global warming catastrophe mode trying to catch and fix anything that could disrupt our climate and environment so NASA is now focusing on climate changes around the globe and sending one of their main space explorations missions Voyager to accomplish this task.

NASA is sponsoring a North Atlantic expedition to explore the oceans saltiest regions in that part of the world using the Voyager Mission and its scientists. The goal of the mission is to get a visual picture of how salt content fluctuates in the ocean`s upper layers and how these variations are related to shifts in rainfall patterns around the planet, thus climate changes.

This mission by NASA is named SPURS or (Salinity Processes in the Upper Ocean Regional Study) The mission will deploy multiple instruments in various parts of the ocean to maximize any data collected and to collect as much data on this study as possible.

One of the main instruments NASA will use to collect data is the Aquarius Instrument which NASA has used to collect salinity measurements from space since August 2011 will now be used on this mission to collect data on salinity measurements in the ocean.

NASA scientists from the SPURS mission left September 6th from Woods Hole, Massachusetts on the research vessel Knorr and headed in route to the research spot known as Atlantic surface salinity maximum which is located halfway between the Bahamas and the Western Coast of North Africa.

The researchers will spend approximately about three weeks at the research area collecting data from salinity measurements, temperature and other types of data. The next spot to continue this research will be the Azores which the team of scientists will leave around October 9th to this area of the ocean.

After the scientists return the key objectives is to study the data collect to get a better understanding on the most worrisome effects of climate change which is the acceleration of Earth`s water cycle. As global temperatures go up, evaporation increases, altering the frequency, strength, and distribution of rainfall around the planet, with far-reaching implications for life on Earth. This is probably tied to the effects of global warming. (

Raymond Schmitt who is a physical oceanographer at Woods Hole and principal investigator for SPURS had this to say, "What if the drought in the U.S. Midwest became permanent? To understand whether that could happen we must understand the water cycle and how it will change as the climate continues to warm. Getting that right is going to involve understanding the ocean, because the ocean is the source of most of the water." (Schmitt, R.)

One of the premises to studying the data collected from the ocean versus data collected from the land is that scientists believe the ocean holds a better record of precipitation and rainfall amounts than the land does. The salt content in the ocean is studied from the data collected as to the salt content on the ocean`s surface waters.

If you think about it if the salt content in the ocean is heavier on the surface waters then obviously the rainfall amounts have been less over a certain period of time thus setting of a flag that maybe there could be the chance of more droughts anywhere in the world due to the heating up of the earth`s temperatures thus global warming and if the salt content is less on the surface waters of the oceans then the rainfall amounts are probably normal and there may not be a need to go into more extensive study.

The data collected presently from this mission and other various missions conducted by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Science Foundation which studied the salinity of the oceans reveal over the past fifty or so years that the water cycle or evaporation process is taking place at a much faster rate than normal and is taking place faster in some areas of the ocean versus other areas. To me, this data would tell me that maybe the process of evaporation due to the heating of the earth`s temperature have been steady over the past fifty years but is now starting to speed up as the effect of global warming increase. There is a need to worry and do something about it.

Eric Lindstrom who is on the NASA Physical Oceanography Program said, "With SPURS we hope to find out why these climate models do not track our observations of changing salinities. We will investigate to what extent the observed salinity trends are a signature of a change in evaporation and precipitation over the ocean versus the ocean`s own processes, such as the mixing of salty surface waters with deeper and fresher waters or the sideways transport of salt." (Lindstrom, E.)

NASA is really taking this mission serious since they will be deploying many different vehicles which include autonomous gliders, sensor-laden buoys and unmanned underwater vehicles. Some will be collected before the research vessel heads to the Azores, but others will remain in place for a year or more, providing scientists with data on seasonal variations of salinity.

David Fratantoni, a Physical Oceanographer with Woods Hole and a member of the SPURS expedition commented by saying, "We`ll be able to look at lots of different scales of salinity variability in the ocean, some of which can be seen from space, from a sensor like Aquarius but we`re also trying to see variations in the ocean that can`t be resolved by current satellite technology." (Fratantoni, D.)

The SPURS Mission by NASA will help scientist scientists understand the behavior of other high-salinity regions around the world. There is a second mission planned for around 2015 to study low-salinity regions where there is a high input of fresh water which include the mouth of a large river or the rainy belts near the equator where water inputs into the oceans.

So, the next time you are sun-bathing in Southern California and decide to take a dip in the ocean at one of the beaches or decide to try to master the perfect wave by surfing the crest on your freshly waxed down surfboard; don`t just take the salt content for granted you get accumulated on your body and in your mouth after you wipe out and fall head first off your surf board and into the power of the wave as it drags you on the bottom of the ocean for about three to four minutes underwater.

Get out of the water take note of the amount of sea salt on your body and hope that there is less salt on you than normal because that will mean the rainfall amounts in that area are good and the area probably is not heading for a drought any time soon. And if the salt content on you is heavier than normal if you are part Cherokee Indian like me, do a rain dance and hope it starts to rain more to try to deter the effects of global warming and the increased drought chances. Global warming is a serious issue we all need to learn more about.



(  Retrieved 2012.


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