Scientists have discovered a giant bubble: Sure, the world’s oceans are full of monsters, wonders, and mysteries, but are they just vast, unique expanses of liquid? it’s true? But this is wrong.
Far from being uniform everywhere, ocean water is a patchwork of interconnected layers and masses that mix and separate thanks to currents, eddies, and changes in temperature or salinity.
In fact, beneath the surface of our great seas are waterfalls, rivers, and even giant bubbles stretching thousands of miles that somehow escape detection.
Now, scientists have discovered one of these giant bubbles in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, stretching from the tip of Brazil to the Gulf of Guinea.
Before the discovery of this body of water – called the Atlantic equatorial water – experts had observed waters along the equator in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, but this is the first time they have observed the phenomenon in the Atlantic Ocean.
“It seemed controversial that there is a tropical water mass in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, but not in the Atlantic Ocean, because tropical circulation and mixing are characteristic in all three oceans,” said Viktor Zorbas, a physicist, and oceanographer at the Shirshoff Institute. is common. oceanography in Moscow told Live Science.
The newly identified water mass has allowed us to complete (or at least describe more precisely) the phenomenological model of the basal water masses of the global ocean.
As the name suggests, the equatorial water of the Atlantic Ocean is formed by the mixing of separate water masses by currents along the equator.
To detect such masses of water around them, oceanographers analyze the relationship between temperature and salinity across the ocean—which determines the density of seawater.
As Live Science points out, in 1942, this temperature-salinity diagram led to the discovery of tropical waters in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
Because the tropical Indo-Pacific waters are formed by the mixing of northern and southern waters, they have similar temperatures and salinities that curve along lines of constant density, making them easy to distinguish from the surrounding water.
However, for many years, such a relationship was not seen in the Atlantic Ocean.
However, thanks to data collected by the Argo program—an international fleet of robotic, self-submersible vessels deployed throughout Earth’s oceans—the researchers observed an unremarkable temperature-salinity curve that paralleled the North Atlantic and mid-Atlantic waters. It was located in the south.
It was the elusive tropical water of the Atlantic Ocean.
“It’s easy to confuse equatorial Atlantic water with central South Atlantic water, and to distinguish them would require a fairly dense network of vertical temperature and salinity profiles covering the entire Atlantic Ocean,” Zourbas explained in an email. to be.” To the life of science.
The discovery is significant because it gives experts a better understanding of how the oceans mix, which is critical to how heat, oxygen, and nutrients are transported around the world.