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NASA to use salt to foresee Earth's future climate   2011-06-03 17:22:05 FeedbackPrintRSS

LOS ANGELES, June 2 (Xinhua) -- With the help of a new salinity- measurement instrument, scientists will use salt to foresee Earth's future climate, NASA said on Thursday.

The instrument, called Aquarius, will enable scientists to make comprehensive measurements of ocean surface salinity with precision, aimed to help researchers better determine how Earth's ocean interacts with the atmosphere to influence climate, according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

Equipped with high-tech, salt-seeking sensors, Aquarius is planned for launch in June aboard the Satelite de Aplicaciones Cientificas (SAC)-D spacecraft built by Argentina's Comision Nacional de Actividades Espaciales (CONAE).

The JPL said that it is a mission that promises to be, by quoting the old saying "worth its salt." Salt is essential to the ocean, serving as a driver of ocean processes. Salinity also influences the temperature of seawater, because sea salt concentrates in the ocean's surface mixed layer, which is actively exchanging water and heat with atmosphere.

Accurate ocean surface salinity data is a necessary component in understanding how the future climate will change, and also opens a window to Earth's past climate. When researchers want to create a climate record that spans previous decades, it is necessary to collect and integrate data from the last two to three decades to develop a consistent analysis, JPL said.

"We ultimately want to predict climate change and have greater confidence in our predictions. Climate models are the only effective means we have to do so," said Aquarius Principal Investigator Gary Lagerloef, a scientist at the Seattle-based independent laboratory Earth & Space Research.

Because of the sparse and intermittent nature of these salinity, researchers have always had troubles in fine-tuning models to obtain a real global picture of how surface salinity influences the ocean.

"Aquarius, and successor missions based on it, will give us, over time, critical data that will be used by models that study how Earth's ocean and atmosphere interact, to see trends in climate," said Lagerloef.

Editor: Mo Hong'e
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