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Ocean Science An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union

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Ocean Sci., 7, 1-26, 2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
06 Jan 2011
Absolute Salinity, ''Density Salinity'' and the Reference-Composition Salinity Scale: present and future use in the seawater standard TEOS-10
D. G. Wright1,†, R. Pawlowicz2, T. J. McDougall3, R. Feistel4, and G. M. Marion5 1Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Dartmouth, NS, B2Y 4A2, Canada
2Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada
3CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, G.P.O. Box 1538, Hobart, TAS 7001, Australia
4Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung, Seestraße 15, 18119 Warnemünde, Germany
5Desert Research Institute, Reno, NV, USA
Abstract. Salinity plays a key role in the determination of the thermodynamic properties of seawater and the new TEOS-101 standard provides a consistent and effective approach to dealing with relationships between salinity and these thermodynamic properties. However, there are a number of practical issues that arise in the application of TEOS-10, both in terms of accuracy and scope, including its use in the reduction of field data and in numerical models.

First, in the TEOS-10 formulation for IAPSO Standard Seawater, the Gibbs function takes the Reference Salinity as its salinity argument, denoted SR, which provides a measure of the mass fraction of dissolved material in solution based on the Reference Composition approximation for Standard Seawater. We discuss uncertainties in both the Reference Composition and the Reference-Composition Salinity Scale on which Reference Salinity is reported. The Reference Composition provides a much-needed fixed benchmark but modified reference states will inevitably be required to improve the representation of Standard Seawater for some studies. However, the Reference-Composition Salinity Scale should remain unaltered to provide a stable representation of salinity for use with the TEOS-10 Gibbs function and in climate change detection studies.

Second, when composition anomalies are present in seawater, no single salinity variable can fully represent the influence of dissolved material on the thermodynamic properties of seawater. We consider three distinct representations of salinity that have been used in previous studies and discuss the connections and distinctions between them. One of these variables provides the most accurate representation of density possible as well as improvements over Reference Salinity for the determination of other thermodynamic properties. It is referred to as "Density Salinity" and is represented by the symbol SAdens; it stands out as the most appropriate representation of salinity for use in dynamical physical oceanography. The other two salinity variables provide alternative measures of the mass fraction of dissolved material in seawater. "Solution Salinity", denoted SAsoln, is the most obvious extension of Reference Salinity to allow for composition anomalies; it provides a direct estimate of the mass fraction of dissolved material in solution. "Added-Mass Salinity", denoted SAadd, is motivated by a method used to report laboratory experiments; it represents the component of dissolved material added to Standard Seawater in terms of the mass of material before it enters solution. We also discuss a constructed conservative variable referred to as "Preformed Salinity", denoted S, which will be useful in process-oriented numerical modelling studies.

Finally, a conceptual framework for the incorporation of composition anomalies in numerical models is presented that builds from studies in which composition anomalies are simply ignored up to studies in which the influences of composition anomalies are accounted for using the results of biogeochemical models.

1TEOS-10: international Thermodynamic Equation of Seawater 2010,

Citation: Wright, D. G., Pawlowicz, R., McDougall, T. J., Feistel, R., and Marion, G. M.: Absolute Salinity, ''Density Salinity'' and the Reference-Composition Salinity Scale: present and future use in the seawater standard TEOS-10, Ocean Sci., 7, 1-26, doi:10.5194/os-7-1-2011, 2011.
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