Sea surface salinity (SSS) is a key indicator of the intensity of the water cycle over the oceans. It also has a strong influence on the stability of the upper ocean, which affects its propensity to mix vertically and thereby store or release heat and carbon dioxide. Thus, it has emerged as an important variable for understanding the Earth?s climate system. However, our data base on SSS is limited, salinity has always been a difficult measurement to make autonomously due to the challenges of biological fouling.

The PI's request funding to continue development of a self-cleaning conductivity sensor (and associated temperature and pressure measurements) with the goal of obtaining stable, long-term salinity measurements from a variety of ocean platforms. Deployment of such sensors on the drifters of the Global Drifter Program would provide a quantum leap in the numbers of SSS observations obtained and thereby make a substantial contribution to an improved understanding of the global water cycle requires a redesign to minimize the size and the manufacturing cost. In addition they propose to make a profiling model suitable for use on gliders and profilers. Their goal is to produce a sensor that will enable continuous monitoring of surface salinity from drifters in order to advance our understanding of the water cycle.

Broader Impacts:

This project develops a new capability to deploy low power salinity sensors with long-term stability in most of the platforms like drifters, moorings and AUV's. It's useful for the global drifter program. It is very useful for providing ground truth for the satellite derived salinity from SMOS (operational) and Aquarius (to be launched in June, 2011). Reliable long-term salinity measurements of the surface ocean are critical to accurately constrain the accelerating changes in the global water cycle, which are both predicted and appear to be occurring in response to global warming. The new sensor design should be commercially viable, thereby extending the scope of this proposal to include many more users such as with global ocean observing programs.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Ocean Sciences (OCE)
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Kandace S. Binkley
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Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Woods Hole
United States
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