Encyclopedia of Geochemistry

Living Edition
| Editors: William M. White

Ocean Salinity, Major Elements, and Thermohaline Circulation

  • Hein J. W. de BaarEmail author
  • Steven M. A. C. van Heuven
  • Rob Middag
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-39193-9_120-1


Salinity is the total amount of dissolved salts in seawater, generally reported in grams/kg (parts per thousand). Salinity is in turn dominated by only a few major elements in ionic form: Na+, Mg2+, Ca2+, K+, Sr2+, Cl, SO42−, Br, F, and HCO3. Temperature together with salinity determines the density of seawater, which governs the vertical circulation of the oceans, known as the thermohaline circulation.


Ocean geochemistry is the discipline focusing mostly on the inorganic constituents of seawater in the world oceans. Interactions with biology and organic chemistry, and external sources and sinks, such as rivers, atmosphere, hydrothermal vents, and sediments, do play a role. Marine geochemistry comprises a far wider range including other aspects of inorganic geochemistry and organic geochemistry, and secondly not only the seawater but also investigations focusing on the underlying marine sediments and their inorganic and organic contents.

Seawater comprises...
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hein J. W. de Baar
    • 1
    Email author
  • Steven M. A. C. van Heuven
    • 1
  • Rob Middag
    • 1
  1. 1.NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, Department of Ocean Systems (OCS), and Utrecht UniversityDen BurgThe Netherlands