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Fifty-Year Trends in Global Ocean Salinities and Their Relationship to Broad-Scale Warming

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 04:59 authored by Durack, P, Wijffels, SE
Using over 1.6 million profiles of salinity, potential temperature, and neutral density from historical archives and the international Argo Program, this study develops the three-dimensional field of multidecadal linear change for ocean-state properties. The period of analysis extends from 1950 to 2008, taking care to minimize the aliasing associated with the seasonal and major global El Nin˜ o–Southern Oscillation modes. Large, robust, and spatially coherent multidecadal linear trends in salinity to 2000-dbar depth are found. Salinity increases at the sea surface are found in evaporation-dominated regions and freshening in precipitationdominated regions, with the spatial pattern of change strongly resembling that of the mean salinity field, consistent with an amplification of the global hydrological cycle. Subsurface salinity changes on pressure surfaces are attributable to both isopycnal heave and real water-mass modification of the temperature– salinity relationship. Subduction and circulation by the ocean’s mean flow of surface salinity and temperature anomalies appear to account for most regional subsurface salinity changes on isopycnals. Broad-scale surface warming and the associated poleward migration of isopycnal outcrops drive a clear and repeating pattern of subsurface isopycnal salinity change in each independent ocean basin. Qualitatively, the observed global multidecadal salinity changes are thus consonant with both broad-scale surface warming and the amplification of the global hydrological cycle.


Publication title

Journal of Climate










Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Amer Meteorological Soc

Place of publication

45 Beacon St, Boston, USA, Ma, 02108-3693

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© Copyright 2010 American Meteorological Society (AMS). Permission to use figures, tables, and brief excerpts from this work in scientific and educational works is hereby granted provided that the source is acknowledged. Any use of material in this work that is determined to be “fair use” under Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act September 2010 Page 2 or that satisfies the conditions specified in Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Act (17 USC §108, as revised by P.L. 94-553) does not require the AMS’s permission. Republication, systematic reproduction, posting in electronic form, such as on a web site or in a searchable database, or other uses of this material, except as exempted by the above statement, requires written permission or a license from the AMS. Additional details are provided in the AMS Copyright Policy, available on the AMS Web site located at ( or from the AMS at 617-227-2425 or

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Understanding climate change not elsewhere classified

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