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Oceans cover about 70 percent of the Earth's surface and about 97 percent of all water on and in the Earth is saline—there's a lot of salty water on our planet. By some estimates, if the salt in the ocean could be removed and spread evenly over the Earth’s land surface it would form a layer more than 500 feet (166 meters) thick, about the height of a 40-story office building (NOAA). But, where did all this salt come from? Salt in the ocean comes from rocks on land. Here's how it works:
From precipitation to the land to the rivers to the sea....
The rain that falls on the land contains some dissolved carbon dioxide from the surrounding air. This causes the rainwater to be slightly acidic due to carbonic acid. The rain physically erodes the rock and the acids chemically break down the rocks and carries salts and minerals along in a dissolved state as ions. The ions in the runoff are carried to the streams and rivers and then to the ocean. Many of the dissolved ions are used by organisms in the ocean and are removed from the water. Others are not used up and are left for long periods of time where their concentrations increase over time.
The two ions that are present most often in seawater are chloride and sodium. These two make up over 90% of all dissolved ions in seawater. The concentration of salt in seawater (its salinity) is about 35 parts per thousand; in other words, about 3.5% of the weight of seawater comes from the dissolved salts. In a cubic mile of seawater, the weight of the salt (as sodium chloride) would be about 120 million tons. A cubic mile of seawater can also contain up to 25 pounds of gold and up to 45 pounds of silver! But before you go out and try alchemy on seawater, just think about how big a cubic mile is: 1 cubic mile contains 1,101,117,147,000 gallons of water!
Learn more: USGS Water Science School
Geology is the study of the Earth. This includes how the Earth was formed, how the Earth has changed since it was formed, the materials that make up the Earth, and the processes that act on it. Marine Geology focuses on areas affected by our oceans including the deep ocean floor, the shallower slopes and shelves that surround the continents, and coastal areas like beaches and estuaries. USGS...
The USGS has made bathymetric surveys for many coastal areas and for selected rivers and lakes in the U.S., including Yellowstone Lake, Crater Lake, and Lake Tahoe. Information and data for those studies is on the USGS Maps of America's Submerged Lands website.NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) is the primary source of bathymetric data for the world's oceans. See their...
The salinity of Great Salt Lake is measured by taking specific gravity and temperature measurements and comparing them to standardized values reported in a table. Specific gravity is measured in the field by testing a water sample with a device very similar to a battery or antifreeze tester.Learn more: Great Salt Lake, Utah
The USGS has studied sea-surface temperature in many areas around the globe; you can find publications from these studies in the USGS Publications Warehouse and by searching on the Internet.World maps and data are available from other agencies, particularly at the NOAA's Sea Surface Temperature , and at the JPL Physical Oceanography Distributed Active Archive Center. For specific data covering...
Although both are sea waves, a tsunami and a tidal wave are two different and unrelated phenomena. A tidal wave is a shallow water wave caused by the gravitational interactions between the Sun, Moon, and Earth ("tidal wave" was used in earlier times to describe what we now call a tsunami.) A tsunami is an ocean wave triggered by large earthquakes that occur near or under the ocean, volcanic...
June marks National Oceans Month, a month dedicated to spreading awareness of Earth’s oceans and coastal ecosystems.