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Sea Surface Salinity Influence on Earth's Climate

Brooke Harris, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

This short NASA video focuses on the Aquarius satellite, launched on June 10, 2011 to observe how variations in ocean salinity relate to climatic changes. By measuring salinity globally, Aquarius shows the ocean's role in climate change and climate's effects on ocean circulation.

Video length: 2:13 min.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Video supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 5 Disciplinary Core Ideas
High School: 3 Disciplinary Core Ideas

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system
About Teaching Principle 5
Other materials addressing 5b
Observations, experiments, and theory are used to construct and refine computer models
About Teaching Principle 5
Other materials addressing 5c
Our understanding of climate
About Teaching Climate Literacy
Other materials addressing Our understanding of climate

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

About the Science

  • Sea surface salinity and sea surface temperature, which together determine seawater density, regulate ocean circulation.
  • Computer models help to predict global temperatures, but ocean salinity is measured in a number of ways. NASA earth-orbit satellites, such as Aquarius, measure a wide variety of variables such as rainfall, surface wind, sea surface temperature (SST), sea level, and even ocean color. Observations like this help unlock the secret links between the ocean and climate.
  • Comments from expert scientist: This activity describes how satellites measure sea surface salinity well and how the SSS measurements fit into the satellite oceanography constellation, including describing how the instruments work and what extra measurements need to be taken in order to make the most accurate assessment of SSS.

About the Pedagogy

  • Teacher can reinforce nature of science principles during the video. The video itself serves as a great visualization to support a discussion of the importance of satellite observations in computer model development.
  • The video can also be used to show students how satellites work, how scientists observe the Earth from space (remote sensing), and how the ocean dynamics are measured.
  • The transcript at http://aquarius.nasa.gov/pdfs/aquarius_climate_transcript.pdf can be used by hearing impaired users.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

Related URLs These related sites were noted by our reviewers but have not been reviewed by CLEAN

Also see NASA's Eyes on the Earth 3D: http://climate.nasa.gov/Eyes/

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Video supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 5

MS-ESS2.C1:Water continually cycles among land, ocean, and atmosphere via transpiration, evaporation, condensation and crystallization, and precipitation, as well as downhill flows on land.

MS-ESS2.C2:The complex patterns of the changes and the movement of water in the atmosphere, determined by winds, landforms, and ocean temperatures and currents, are major determinants of local weather patterns.

MS-ESS2.C4:Variations in density due to variations in temperature and salinity drive a global pattern of interconnected ocean currents.

MS-ESS2.C5:Water’s movements—both on the land and underground—cause weathering and erosion, which change the land’s surface features and create underground formations.

MS-ESS2.D1:Weather and climate are influenced by interactions involving sunlight, the ocean, the atmosphere, ice, landforms, and living things. These interactions vary with latitude, altitude, and local and regional geography, all of which can affect oceanic and atmospheric flow patterns.

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 3

HS-ESS2.C1:The abundance of liquid water on Earth’s surface and its unique combination of physical and chemical properties are central to the planet’s dynamics. These properties include water’s exceptional capacity to absorb, store, and release large amounts of energy, transmit sunlight, expand upon freezing, dissolve and transport materials, and lower the viscosities and melting points of rocks.

HS-ESS2.D1:The foundation for Earth’s global climate systems is the electromagnetic radiation from the sun, as well as its reflection, absorption, storage, and redistribution among the atmosphere, ocean, and land systems, and this energy’s re-radiation into space.

HS-ESS2.E1:The many dynamic and delicate feedbacks between the biosphere and other Earth systems cause a continual co-evolution of Earth’s surface and the life that exists on it.

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