Antarctica ice sheet

Study Shows Salty Ocean Could Prevent Earth From Freezing

The study may have answered the mystery of the faint young sun, which glowed 20% brighter in Archean eras. Although the sun burned 20% brighter on early Earth, fossil evidence suggests our planet had warm, shallow oceans where stromatolites — microbial mats — thrived.

New research may have solved the ‘weak young sun problem’, showing that saltier water made it possible prevent the earth from freezing more than 3 billion years ago.

(Photo: Photo by JOHAN ORDONEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

We all know that the composition of the atmosphere (especially the concentration of greenhouse gases) is essential in regulating the Earth’s temperature, but what about the composition of the oceans? To study the influence of salinity, researchers used a general circulation model in the ocean atmosphere.

They show that saltier seas lead to warmer temperatures, partly because salt lowers the freezing point of saltwater and limits the development of sea ice, but mainly because saltwater has a higher density, which alters ocean circulation patterns and promotes heat transfer to the poles. .

According to them Archaean Scenario, the current salinity results in a heavily vitrified globe with only a small strip of open water near the equator. However, increasing salinity up to 40% more than today indicated a warmer Archean Earth with typical surface temperatures above 20 degrees Celsius, with ice arriving at the poles only seasonally. Geophysical Research Letters published their findings.

Also read: Study shows how much methane is released from ocean fjords

Why is the ocean salty?

Projections show sea levels will rise a foot along US shores by 2050

(Photo: Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The ocean gets its salt of two places: surplus of land and openings in the soil.

Land rocks are the main source of salts dissolved in salt water. Because rainwater on land is slightly acidic, it erodes rocks. This releases ions into streams and rivers, which eventually flow into the ocean. Many of the dissolved ions are taken from the water by creatures in the ocean. Others are not eliminated, causing their concentrations to rise over time.

Hydrothermal fluids, which arise from vents on the seafloor, are another source of salts in the ocean. Ocean water seeps through fissures in the seafloor and is heated by magma from the Earth’s core. The heat starts a chain of chemical reactions. Water tends to lose oxygen, magnesium and sulfates while absorbing metals such as iron, zinc and copper from the surrounding rocks.

The heated water is drained out through vents on the seabed, bringing the metals out. Some ocean salts are formed as a result of submarine volcanic eruptions that discharge minerals directly into the ocean.

What if the ocean froze?

The composition of the atmosphere, especially the concentration of greenhouse gases, is known to affect the Earth’s climate system. Using a climate model, we show that ocean composition can significantly influence surface temperature and ice cover. We focus on the amount of salt dissolved in seawater and find that saltier oceans lead to warmer climates.

These effects are minor today, but salt may have been an important part of Earth’s early habitability when the sun was less bright.

The blanket of ice that covers the oceans would block most of the light in the surface water. This would destroy marine algae, with the effects reverberating down the food chain until the seas were nearly sterile. Only deep-sea species living near hydrothermal vents could survive.

Because ice reflects more sunlight than water, the global climate would drastically decrease, causing the land to freeze. Plants would die from lack of water, resulting in reduced CO2 absorption; so CO2 from volcanoes would slowly build up in the atmosphere and warm the Earth again — though the ice could take millions of years to thaw.

Related article: Climate change affects the composition of the ocean, making it more difficult for marine creatures to communicate

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