The Effect of Ocean Salinity on Climate and Its Implications for Earth's Habitability

Stephanie Olson, Malte F. Jansen, Dorian S. Abbot, Itay Halevy, Colin Goldblatt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The influence of atmospheric composition on the climates of present-day and early Earth has been studied extensively, but the role of ocean composition has received less attention. We use the ROCKE-3D ocean-atmosphere general circulation model to investigate the response of Earth's present-day and Archean climate system to low versus high ocean salinity. We find that saltier oceans yield warmer climates in large part due to changes in ocean dynamics. Increasing ocean salinity from 20 to 50 g/kg results in a 71% reduction in sea ice cover in our present-day Earth scenario. This same salinity change also halves the pCO2 threshold at which Snowball glaciation occurs in our Archean scenarios. In combination with higher levels of greenhouse gases such as CO2 and CH4, a saltier ocean may allow for a warm Archean Earth with only seasonal ice at the poles despite receiving ∼20% less energy from the Sun.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2021GL095748
Number of pages9
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number10
StatePublished - 28 May 2022


Dive into the research topics of 'The Effect of Ocean Salinity on Climate and Its Implications for Earth's Habitability'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this