Layers of salty ocean water mix with layers of fresher water, creating a salty staircase or layering driven by small-scale convection known as salt fingers. Although scientists have known about salt fingers since 1960, when they were discovered at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, they have not understood their role in ocean mixing and the ability of the ocean to absorb heat, carbon dioxide and pollutants from the atmosphere. Results of a new experiment, sponsored by the National Science Foundation and reported in today’s issue of Science, indicate that salt fingers are vertically mixing ocean waters more than previously thought. The finding will improve understanding of how water masses in the ocean mix, leading to better climate prediction models.
Just a matter of time before this too gets assimilated into the “broader framework.”