Spice and the Demon

Science  22 Jan 1999:
Vol. 283, Issue 5401, pp. 498-499
DOI: 10.1126/science.283.5401.498

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One of the oldest mysteries of oceanography is how temperature and salt concentration interact in the midlatitude ocean. Measurements as a function of depth reveal a remarkably tight and predictable relation between temperature and salinity below the surface. In his Perspective, Schmitt discusses results presented in the same issue by Rudnick and Ferrari that offer some clues as to the solution of the puzzle. The new measurements suggest that internal mixing rather than atmospheric forcing may explain the temperature-salinity relation. Furthermore, the process of "salt fingering"--convective cells that transport heat and salt at different rates--appears to play an important role.