Physical Properties of Sea Water

### Units of Temperature, Salinity, and Pressure, and Their Ranges in the Sea

In oceanography the temperature is measured in degrees centigrade. The thermometers used are described on p. 347. The accuracy of the measurements is about ± 0.02°C. Salinity is given as grams per kilogram of sea water; that is, in parts per thousand, or per mille, for which the symbol ‰ is used. An accuracy of ±0.02 ‰ is required. Pressure (p. 170) is measured in atmospheres or in units of the c.g.s. system. An atmosphere is defined as the pressure exerted per square centimeter by a

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column of mercury 760 mm high at a temperature of 0°C, where the acceleration of gravity is 980.665 cm/sec2. In chemical oceanography a related unit, the Torr, is used which equals the pressure exerted per square centimeter by a column of mercury 1 mm high at a temperature of 0°C and at the above-mentioned acceleration of gravity. The c.g.s. unit of pressure is dyne/cm2, and 1 atmosphere = 1.0133 × 106 dynes/cm2. One million dynes/cm2 was designated as 1 bar by V. Bjerknes. The corresponding practical unit used in physical oceanography is 1 decibar, which equals 0.1 bar. The pressure exerted per square centimeter by 1 m of sea water very nearly equals 1 decibar; that is, the hydrostatic pressure in the sea increases by 1 decibar for approximately every meter of depth. Therefore, the depth in meters and the pressure in decibars are expressed by nearly the same numerical value. This rule is sufficiently accurate for determining the effect of pressure on the physical properties of the water, but details of the pressure distribution must be computed from the density distribution (p. 408).

In the oceans the temperature ranges from about −2° to +30°C. The lower limit is determined by the formation of ice, and the upper limit is determined by processes of radiation and exchange of heat with the atmosphere (p. 127). In landlocked areas the surface temperature may be higher, but in the open ocean it rarely exceeds 30°C.

The salinity in the oceans is generally between 33 ‰ and 37 ‰. The surface salinity in high latitudes, in regions of high rainfall, or where there is dilution by rivers may be considerably less, and in certain semi-enclosed areas, such as the Gulf of Bothnia, the salinity may approach zero. In isolated seas in intermediate latitudes, such as the Red Sea, where evaporation is excessive, salinities may reach 40 ‰ or more. As the range in the open oceans is rather small, it is sometimes convenient to use a salinity of 35 ‰ as an average for all oceans. In the chapter on the chemistry of sea water the tabulations are made for water of 19.00 ‰ chlorinity; that is, 34.325 ‰ salinity.

In dealing with the pressure in the oceans, the atmospheric pressure is always neglected and the pressure at the sea surface is entered as zero. Since the pressure is essentially a function of depth and the numerical value in decibars nearly equals the depth in meters, the range in pressure will be from zero at the sea surface to over 10,000 decibars in the deepest part of the ocean.

Owing to the character of the distribution of temperature and salinity in the oceans, some relationships exist between these conditions and the pressure. The temperature of the deep and bottom water of the oceans is always low, varying between 4° and − 1°C, so that high pressures are associated with low temperatures. Similarly, the salinity of deep and bottom water varies within narrow limits, 34.6 ‰ to 35‰, and high pressures are therefore associated with salinities between these limits.

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Exceptions are found in isolated seas in intermediate latitudes, such as the Mediterranean and Red Seas, where water of high temperature and high salinity is found at great depths, and hence under great pressure.

Physical Properties of Sea Water